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  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
  • Video introduction by Roberto Rossellini from 1963
  • New video interviews with Rossellini scholar Adriano Aprà, Rossellini's friend and confessor Father Virgilio Fantuzzi, and filmmakers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani
  • Audio commentary by film scholar Peter Bondanella
  • Once Upon a Time . . . "Rome Open City," a 2006 documentary on the making of this historic film, featuring rare archival material and footage of Anna Magnani, Federico Fellini, Ingrid Bergman, and many others

Rome Open City

Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Roberto Rossellini
Starring: Aldo Fabrizi, Anna Magnani
1945 | 103 Minutes | Licensor: Cinecitta

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $79.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #497 | Out of print
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: January 26, 2010
Review Date: January 24, 2010

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This was Roberto Rossellini's revelation, a harrowing drama about the Nazi occupation of Rome and the brave few who struggled against it. Though told with a bit more melodramatic flair than the other films that would form this trilogy and starring well-known actors-Aldo Fabrizi as a priest helping the partisan cause and Anna Magnani in her breakthrough role as the fiancée of a resistance member-Rome Open City (Roma città aperta) is a shockingly authentic experience, conceived and directed amid the ruin of World War II, with immediacy in every frame. Marking a watershed moment in Italian cinema, this galvanic work was an international sensation, garnering awards around the globe and leaving the beginnings of a new film movement in its wake.

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Roberto Rossellini’s Rome Open City comes in Criterion’s new War Trilogy box set, presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on a dual-layer disc (the first disc of the three-disc set.) The image has also been slightly picture boxed.

I think most viewers will be pleasantly surprised by the transfer found on here. The previous Image DVD looked “rough” to say the least (the film was in incredibly poor shape and the transfer itself was a pretty lousy one) and my understanding was the film was really beyond help, the years not having been kind, and as pointed out through just about every supplement found on this disc, the film was shot using whatever scraps of film Rossellini and his crew could get their hands on.

All things considered the image on here looks exceptional. Restoration work has been incredibly thorough and a lot of the damage I remember being present before is gone. There are still some marks and debris, and transitions from one scene to another present a large number of scratches but a majority of the film looks fairly clean.

The transfer itself is also a sharp improvement over the previous Image DVD, with fewer artifacts and looking quite a bit sharper. At times I suspect the image has been softened to maybe hide some damage to the print but overall in the image looks fairly crisp. Contrast is okay, maybe the worst aspect of the transfer, though I’m sure it’s beyond help, presenting blacks that look more like a dark gray, and whites that can be a little too bright.

While it still has its issues the transfer looks amazing and it’s surprisingly the best looking film out of the set, surprising since this one was shot in a more unorthodox manner when compared to the others. Overall it far exceeded my expectations.


All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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While there is still a faint hiss noticeable in the background the Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track still sounds fairly good. It’s a little hollow overall, which I blame more on the post production dubbing and the source materials than the transfer, and music can sound a touch distorted. Otherwise it gets the job done and is really better than one would probably expect.



As a whole the War Trilogy presents an extensive selection of supplements over its three discs, each disc devoted specifically to the film on the disc or the trilogy as a whole. The supplement review found here is specific to the disc for Rome Open City and not the set as a whole.

The disc opens with an Introduction by Roberto Rossellini, a 3-minute segment from 1963 originally made for a French television program that was airing his films. Criterion has included one for each film on the set. In this one Rossellini talks a bit about the development of the script and their limited resources (specifically having to purchase scraps of film) and then its reception at Cannes. The material is covered elsewhere but it’s great getting footage of Rossellini talking about his own films, even if it’s brief.

Carried over from Criterion’s laserdisc (and unavailable since then) is the audio commentary by film scholar Peter Bondanella. It’s a fairly good scholarly track covering the film’s production, editing style and look, as well as neorealist cinema in general. He also covers Italian cinema and the industry before and around the time of Rome Open City, and also covers war time in Italy. It can be a touch dry at times, and there are moments where he falls into the trap of simply describing on screen events, but it’s a strong track, one certainly worth listening to.

One of the bigger features in the set is the 2006 documentary Once Upon a Time… “Rome Open City.” Running 52-minutes (and broken down into 7 chapters) it works as a making-of bringing together new interviews and archived interviews covering the production of the film. There’s footage of Rossellini in Italy recalling war time and the shoot, and there’s some intriguing anecdotes about filming on location, particularly one incident where passengers on a bus confused the filming of German soldiers arresting a priest as the real thing (one passenger apparently drawing a pistol.) It unfortunately feels a need to move on to the affair between Roberto Rossellini and actress Ingrid Bergman (though it does at least allow Isabella to recall memories about her mother and father) but other than this aspect it’s a decent documentary on the film and the war trilogy in general.

Next is a 12-minute interview with film historian and “Rossellini expert” Adriano Aprà. He covers similar subjects covered elsewhere (the limited resources, the film’s reception) but talks a little more about the actors, including Aldo Fabrizi and Anna Magnani (known more for their comedic roles.) He also goes over the meaning of the title, which I appreciated since, as I’ll freely admit, I never understood the significance of the title.

Rossellini and the City is a “video essay” by Mike Shiel covering the use of locations throughout the three films, covering the geography, space, monuments, and architecture and how they work in the films, as well as camera positions and framing. It’s not a “video essay” as I’m used to from other releases, feeling more like an interview with Shiel accompanied by clips and stills. At 25-minutes it might be a little long but it’s a fairly interesting examination at the locations used for the trilogy. NOTE: It may be tempting to look at the supplements after viewing the film on the disc, but you should note that not only does this feature give away portions of Paisan, but it gives away a rather large spoiler about Germany Year Zero, so unless they’ve already seen the films I strongly suggest viewers visit this supplement after viewing all three films.

The disc then concludes with a short 5-minute interview with Father Virgilio Fantuzzi (who, along with Aprà, offered interviews on Criterion’s DVD for Rossellini’s The Flowers of Saint Francis.) In it he mentions how Rossellini wasn’t a believer but there are religious elements in all of his films, looking specifically at those found in Rome Open City, which includes poses of the actors and even some artwork.

While it only represents a portion of the supplements found in the set as a whole, the material here still manages to thoroughly cover Rome Open City and aspects from the other films in the trilogy all on its own.



To get Criterion’s new DVD for Rome Open City you have to buy the box set of Rossellini’s War Trilogy (as of now at any rate) but I’m sure many won’t have an issue with that. But I’m sure they’ll be relieved to know that Criterion has done everything they can to bring new life to the film and it’s certainly been worth the wait: The film looks quite good, far better than any previous home video edition, and the supplements are thorough and informative. Though the set as a whole is certainly the DVD edition to be beat this year, this disc is impressive all on its own.

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