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Germany Year Zero

The last chapter in director Roberto Rossellini's Neo-Realist postwar trilogy (following 1945's Rome, Open City and 1946's Paisan), Germany Year Zero (1947) adds another perspective to his series on the after-effects of military conflict. The picture was shot amid the wreckage of postwar Berlin, as it's meant to document not only the damage done to the city, but to the people who have to live in it. Concerning the Koeler family as they struggle to survive, youngest son Edmund (Edmund Moeschke) tries to find work in the city, but he has the best luck with stealing. His older brother (Franz-Otto Kruger) was a Nazi, and he doesn't want to get a food card because he's afraid he'll be arrested for being a former party member, while their father (Ernst Pittschau) is gravely ill and won't get better without proper nourishment. Meanwhile, sister Eva (Ingetraud Hinze) skirts prostitution to earn a living. Becoming friends with his old Nazi schoolteacher (Erich Guhne) to make quick money, Edmund suffers so much pressure trying to eke out his own survival that he contemplates patricide. An austere study of the damning effects that follow a country's losing a war, Germany Year Zero also belongs with Luis Bunuel's Los Ovidados and Robert Bresson's Mouchette as one of the most depressing films ever centered on a young character. Shot in the documentary style of Neo-Realism, Rossellini's film is a powerful punch to the solar plexus. Image Entertainment's DVD presents the film in the original full-frame (1.33:1) with the monaural Italian audio in DD 1.0 and optional English subtitles. Shot in Germany, the Italians rarely used synch-sound, so the dubbing never is obnoxious. The quality of the source-print is lacking (with splices and some really rough passages), but it's an acceptable DVD for those interested in the era and genre. Keep-case.
—DSH



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