“I don’t trust priests; they’re all spies.”
An apolitical con-artist (Vittorio De Sica) impersonates a recently killed Resistance leader (“General Della Rovere”) in order to save his own life.
Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this historical drama may be overlong and disjointed at times, but is nonetheless a powerful depiction of director Roberto Rossellini’s conviction that “every Italian has the responsibility to share his countrymen’s misery.” Indeed, because Rossellini spends the entire first hour of the movie showing us Grimaldi (De Sica) as he sells out his fellow Italians to the Gestapo — brusquely trading their lives for cash — it’s especially gratifying to witness his change of heart once he’s in prison. Although Grimaldi has nothing to gain by helping the Resistance movement, he comes to recognize the true importance of solidarity in the face of evil. By the end of the film, you’ll feel nothing but compassion and pride for this reformed swindler, who “becomes worthy of the man whose name he has stolen.”
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Vittorio De Sica’s strong performance as both the cynical swindler and the noble General
- Many powerful, tense moments, both before and after De Sica enters prison
- A fascinating portrait of newly won political consciousness
Yes. Though it’s long, unevenly paced, and considered by many to be one of Rossellini’s lesser efforts, this film remains a stirring wartime drama.