Germany Year Zero (1948) Poster

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Beyond words
RichardvonLust15 July 2013
As a child of the post war Berlin ruins myself, I confess this film had a special relevance. But nothing could have prepared me for the sheer impact that Germany Year Zero has upon the soul. Roberto Rosselini captured a tragedy that has been largely ignored and his haunting work screams the pain of post war civilian suffering in Berlin louder than any documentary.

Not only filmed in the very streets where a million died only months before, all those appearing in Stunde Null were quite clearly living the very experience they were enacting. These were not actors. Their performances are clumsy and strained without the polish of professional training or Hollywood editing. But that was the magic of this production. This was not drama but rather a window of reality. Their faces were scarred by the terrors they had just survived and one can only wonder at their courage to enact their own daily suffering for the entertainment of others.

The essence of the plot is simple enough. It is the story of ordinary German civilians trying to survive the starvation and deprivations of 1945 Berlin. The central character is a 12 year old boy, Edmund, who has to endure anything and everything in order to provide for his family. And in the end.....

Well nobody knows what really happened to Edmund Moeschke, the ex Hitler Jugend who was playing himself. After filming the external shots in Berlin the entire cast were taken to Rome in 1946 where the interior scenes were put together. And of course most of them attempted to remain there. Edmund disappeared from history and probably met his end somewhere in the Roman streets. Certainly he has never emerged to claim the accolades that would undoubtedly be poured upon him were he to only mention his name.

But Edmund will never be forgotten because his tragic story touches the soul and speaks for millions of other youngsters who were so cruelly sacrificed in that terrible conflict. This is not a film: it is a masterpiece.
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EdgarST15 February 2003
After watching "Roma, città aperta" in the 1970's and "Paisà" in the late 1980's, I finally saw "Germania anno zero", the last part of Roberto Rossellini's war trilogy. Compared to the first two installments, they all share the immediacy of the war, but this time Rossellini is more direct: no subplots, only a handful of characters, all of whom move around young Edmund (Edmund Mëschke), the 12-year-old German boy who lives in a miserable apartment with five other families, and who maintains his sick father, his brother who was a Nazi soldier and his sister, who is close to becoming a prostitute. Edmund pretends he's old enough to work, but when he's denied that opportunity, he steals, sells items in the black market, or allows his former teacher to caress him lasciviously for a few marks. What's more impressive in this film is the lack of sentimentality – compared to De Sica's children movies- and the absence of preaching: when one character does preach, he would have better stayed shut! I think that many scholars are no longer interested in the aesthetics of Italian Neorealism, but–in my appreciation- Roberto Rossellini is one of the big names in the history of cinema, far more important than other filmmakers who are idolized, and his war films are more interesting to me than later works as "Voyage in Italy".
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Grim and accurate
marshm25 January 2005
I must confess to a lingering fascination of the condition of Germany, and the German peoples, immediately following WWII. The country, of course, was broken - destroyed - in ruins. More importantly, so were the people. The real life stories I have read speak to so many aspects of their condition: shame, starvation, disbelief, shock of the revelations of the evil of their own doing, and despair. Always despair. They are stories of how the human spirit can overcome the most horrific nightmares and conditions.

This movie drills to the heart of many of those issues, sometimes subtly, sometimes brazenly. Rossellini was never better.

I consider this movie to be a must view on two levels: First, it is quite frankly one of the best moves ever made. Easy words to throw around, and said too often about too many films. Those words apply here. Second, it is a must view for the understanding it can provide of what the world - particularly Germany and Europe - were like after WWII. It belongs to a small suite of movies (such as Schindler's List) that show real insight, a true view into the world during this bleak time in history.
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A document of its time
jandesimpson25 August 2002
Warning: Spoilers
The art of cinema reached emotional and technical maturity at the same time as the cataclysmic events of World War II were unfolding. War shaped the content of much of cinema's finest period whether as direct historical reconstruction, distortion for propaganda purposes or simply by feeding the necessity for romantic escapism. By the end of the war Italian neo-realism was entering its great period. A nation that had suffered much looked unflinchingly at its society. It is not therefore surprising that an Italian, Roberto Rossellini, was able to empathise so acutely with the plight of the German people in their zero year following the collapse of the Third Reich. Amid the rubble of Berlin, 12 year old Edmund does what little he can to earn trifling amounts to help feed his family including a chronically sick father. They are not popular with their neighbours, as an ill man is an encumbrance and there is still a residue of the Nazi dogma of the survival of the fittest abroad. Something of this eventually gets twisted in Edmund's immature mind causing him to embark on the terrible path of patricide. Innocence is thus destroyed in a particularly horrifying way. "Germany Year Zero" is as bleakly pessimistic and despairing as any film to come out in the immediate aftermath of the war. Other films, equally grim, such as Wadja's "Kanal", Sanders-Brahms's "Germany, Pale Mother" and Klimov's "Come and See" are recollections after gaps in time. The strength of Rossellini's work is its documentary immediacy. The bombs have all but fallen and trams have started to run again. The graves being dug at the beginning look as if they are for real and the horse that has collapsed in the street that has excited a group of gathering carnivores could have died moments before the camera arrives. "Germany Year Zero" is neither comforting nor uplifting, but it looks so real, it had to be.
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Great neo-realist movie
michelle_haenlein9 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Germany Year Zero is one of the rare films about the immediate after-war in Germany. It depicts a family who lives in the ruins of Berlin. Their drama is hunger and misery, the problem is recurrent, never solved. The father is too ill to help out. The older brother, an ex nazi, hides from the police. The sister goes to the dancing to meet French and Americans. It is finally Edmund, only 12 years old, the youngest of them all, who really struggles to improve things and find food and money. At one point he starts following bad advice and the tragedy begins. What Germany Year Zero shows us is how adults, unaware of it, can influence a child into making drastic and dramatic decisions. As the movie goes on, he becomes more and more isolated, physically and morally. The last scene is very poetic and at the same time tragic : one minute you see him playing in the ruins like a child, kicking a stone with his shoe, playing with a piece of junk, sliding down a beam, the next minute he puts an end to his life. To be seen by all lovers of neo-realism. With some similar themes I also recommend Visconti's Rocco and his Brothers and The Damned.
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Rossellini's great post-war, neo-realist masterpiece
berlinkubaner31 July 2000
This masterpiece, filmed while the action and subject matter of the film, was at its most intense, is a must see. Featuring non-professional actors, in the neo-realist style which defined post-war Italian cinema, you will experience a lyrical view of Germany, actually devastated Berlin. This is how it was at Hour Zero, or "Anno Zero" when new currency was introduced, and the economy started again from scratch with each German receiving the same (very little) cash to rebuild their lives, and indeed their country. The film has magnificent scenes including the voice of Adolf Hitler coming from a record player among the ruins of the Chancellery, deaths in gutted buildings, and several especially poignant scenes of the young boy who has known nothing but misery during his few years of life, yet continues his fight to survive.
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3rd part of Rossellini's neorealist trilogy
schedule4916 March 2005
This is the third film in Rossellini's war trilogy; the other 2 films are Roma citta' aperta (Rome Open City) and Paisa. I thought this film was of the same quality as Paisa. Rossellini continues to use the same sort of staging and neorealist style as before. It's interesting to see the footage of (mostly destroyed) Berlin... It's interesting to see how a director from a country that was once allied with Nazi Germany decides to portray postwar life in Germany. A bleak film, but very Rossellini-ish: children as important characters, sexual perversion equated with moral turpitude, the telescoped-in time frame. As in his first film, Roma citta' aperta, Rossellini provides an intense story. Neorealism can sound dry--and some of the neorealist films were rather depressing and not exactly fun to watch--but this film is definitely more than watchable.
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The Führer of Films!
kristophersumma26 April 2004
An intricate web was weaved with the lives of post World War Two's deprived people amongst the reins of Berlin, Germany and that of mans ultimate struggle for survival. That web is the work of Italian film maker, Roberto Rossellini. His final installation of the war trilogy, beginning with Open City (1945), follow by Paisà (1946), ended with an amazing expression of talent from behind the camera and in front. What is not to be forgotten from the film Germany Year Zero (1947-8) is that time in history when people lived `as if tragedy was natural'. We watch as the social infection of survival of the fittest works its way into the life of a twelve year old, German boy named Edmund Koeler (played by Edmund Moeschke). The challenge of survival begins its grip on young Edmund as a result of dealing with life in post-war consequences. The simply desperate life of Edmund and his family was further brought to life with the cinematography that gives shape to the psychological states of it characters through stylized visuals land marking the film noir derived from German expressionism. Along with several dehumanizing high angle shots, the shadowy look into this family's life makes for a powerful film, as well as a powerful message.
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totally true and gut wrenching
shoolaroon14 June 2002
this is at times an incredibly painful movie to watch as rosselini portrays the struggle of ordinary germans to survive the devastation of post war berlin and rebuild their lives. the protagonist is a 12 year old boy whose childhood has been stolen by war - he tries to live up to the responsibilities that are forced on him but it's all too much for a skinny little boy to handle. the desperation depicted in this movie really shows the horrors of war for all people - even the ones who initiate it and lose. this is a remarkably compassionate film - i cannot recommend it highly enough. 10 stars.
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Edmund is Germany
catalfu00128 April 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Edmund represents Germany during this time. Edmund, who walks about with his head down and his half shut eyes looking at the ground in sadness, represents a nation trying to rebuild, and to begin again with very little money and resources. Edmund's life is one of confusion, hardship and rejection. I feel that at this time people of Germany felt confused, and saw hardship unlike any other. It is also my thought that the rejection that Edmund felt throughout the film symbolizes what the nation of Germany had felt and seen from other nations. I feel that the ending of the movie is very powerful in the fact that it shows death and life. Edmund's jump to death can be seen as the death of a nation and the beginning of a new nation. With this being said, Germany Year Zero is statement of history and the politics of Germany.
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Fear eats the soul.
jpseacadets30 April 2007
Rossellini's films just after World War II are to be appreciated as both social comment and for artistic advancement in the matter of film. This film, like no other, deals with Germany as a vanquished nation, driven downward toward annihilation. Edmund, a young boy, made to beggar himself in order to survive, gives one of the truly authentic portraits of youth driven to despair ever seen on the screen.

How used to sentimentality we Americans had become by the time Rossellini made this desolate vision of a destroyed post-war Europe.

How coddled and led astray were we by image after image of dimpled, freckled kids clutching hold of their pets. Children the likes of Mickey Rooney or Dean Stockwell. How engaging...and yet how unreal.

Edmund isn't just a child, we learn. But more so, a country.

A nation bombed into rubble and tasting its own ashes. Stripped of everything of any value and reduced to zero. Rejected by everyone and forced into the end made to stare death in the face.

Germany YEAR ZERO will shock you. Make you wince as the tragedy of a nation corrupted unfolds, and self-destructs.

Edmund is no longer just a boy made to suffer in a world he never made. In the end he's our conscience.
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Neorealist view of post-war Germany, provided through the experiences of a 12-year-old boy
joyfuljezuz70711 January 2007
This film was without a doubt one of the most difficult films I have ever seen. The directing is very much Neorealist, and as such presents a very objective view of the devastation in post-war Germany and the lives of the people therein. I experienced what the characters went through, and grew numb and tired of the harsh reality of such a ravaged world right along with them. In the character of Edmund (main character) is presented a dark individual fallen victim to the consequences of war within a country, and as I as the audience witnessed the desperation of his life I was, dare I say, almost forced to disconnect myself from the experience. Disconcerting on a masterful level. I highly recommend this movie to anyone interested in being probed to examine and challenge their natural response to tragedy.
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Marvelous study of character and atmosphere, a neo-realistic triumph...
Quinoa198424 November 2003
One of Roberto Rossellini's masterpieces, Germany Year Zero, suffers only from one minor liability, which is not totally the filmmaker's fault. The film was shot in German with the native language, but it was later shown around the world (at least I think around the world) in an Italian-dubbed print, which is also the version currently available on American DVD. True, Rossellini (as far as I know) didn't speak German, and he had it in Italian so he wouldn't have trouble getting the film distributed in his native land where he broke ground with Open City and Paisan. But it is a fair enough indication that not EVERYTHING in a film such as Germany Year Zero is based in total reality based on seeing this version. Once this is looked past though, one can get into the actual story and characters, which is what Rossellini is after- getting at least the emotional loss in this world perfectly clear.

Germany Year Zero - the third in a so-called trilogy of films that began with his breakthrough Open City and continued with Paisan - was brilliantly executed, in the quasi-documentary cinematography by Robert Juillard, the appropriately sorrowful score by Renzo Rossellini, and in the performances by first timers like Edmund Moeschke as Edmund Koeler (the main character), Ingetraude Hinze as Eva Koeler (Edmund's desperate sister), and Erich Guhne as Herr Enning (Edmund's ex-teacher who becomes a crucial supporting character). Edmund is a pre-teen who's lived through the devastation of the War, like his family, the families he lives with, and everyone else around him in the city, and he tries to get work despite his all-too-young age. Things seem bleak for his family, as his brother doesn't want to work for fear of being caught as a prisoner of the war, his elderly father can't work, and his sister goes out every night looking for things that only help herself. When Edmund runs into his once school-teacher (Enning), who is part of the cold, evil remnants of the Nazi regime, and this leads into the last act of the film, with startling, heart-breaking results.

While the story of Edmund- and of the line that scorches a kid's conscience between childhood innocence and the horrors of the real world- is a compelling and historically important one to tell, what Rossellini achieves here more than anything is the sense of dread in a desolate atmosphere. He achieved that in Open City too (I have yet to see Paisan so I can't comment), but that film had the tendency to take a little too much time involving us in sub-plots. In Germany Year Zero, however, the images presented stay with the viewer long after the film has ended since they're akin to the kind of sensibility Polanski had with The Pianist, in a technical sense- we're following someone in his own personal struggle for survival in an environment that's in rubble, with many of the people around the character without much hope. There's also the theme of sacrifice, like in the other two films in Rossellini's trilogy, and that plus a theme of a sort of helpless hope in human spirit, stays true through the seventy minutes of this film. Highly recommended (the language dubbing practically regardless).
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Only the Strong Survive
claudio_carvalho12 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
In 1947, an ordinary German family fights to survive in a wrecked Berlin after the end of World War II. The father (Ernst Pittschau) is very sick, incapable to work and bring food home; his older son, Karl-Heinz (Franz Grüger), is a former soldier hiding from the police, afraid of the consequences of fighting in war; his daughter Eva (Ingetraud Hinz) is waiting for her boyfriend Wolf and goes to the clubs in the night to bring valuable cigarettes and minor gifts to contribute with the survival of her family; and the twelve years old boy Edmund (Edmund Meschke) wanders through the destructed city trying to find work or some food to reduce the starvation of his family. When Edmund meets his former teacher, the pedophile Herr Enning (Erich Gühne), he misunderstands his Nazi speech about the survival of the stronger and poisons the food of his father, leading the hopeless boy to a desperate final solution.

I have just watched "Germania Anno Zero" on DVD and this masterpiece is still very impressive even when you see for the second time (I saw for the first time on 23 May 2001). If the viewer has seen the documentary of Leni Riefenstahl "Triumph des Willens" about of the Sixth Nazi Party Congress in 1934 or the megalomaniac dream of Hitler about the fate of Berlin in "Undergångens Arkitektur", he or she will be certainly more impressed with the totally destroyed and chaotic post-war Berlin. "Germania Anno Zero" depicts the lack of hope, starvation and ruins of ordinary people, mostly women, elders, youths and children, doing anything to survive. This pessimist film is a milestone of the Italian Neo-Realism and it is amazing how the German people were able to rebuild their nation (and Berlin) from the ashes. My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): "Alemanha, Ano Zero" ("Germany, Year Zero")
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Great neo-realist film...Rosselinni a great director!!
hhsilfx11 September 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Director of "Open City", and "Paisan" and the less successful but interesting" Stromboli", "Germania Anne Zero" , Roberto Rossellini stands up with the best neo realist films from Italy in the late 1940s and ever! Thanks to TCM viewed, this morning couldn't stop watching..So well directed! and photographed.depicting a young boys fight for survival in post war Germany.. a film so ahead of its time..themes which are still somewhat depicted here, if only hinted..teenage prostitution, pedophilia (the teacher- boy relationship) strongly suggested but handled very discreetly and tastefully! The family relationships,poverty, the burden of the ailing parent on the children..and the eventual patricide, and suicide makes this film fascinating, shockingly bold, and way ahead of its time (1948)..cast was made of non professionals..but they gave amazing performances..& Rossellini remains one of the best Italian directors or directors, in general, of all time!!I believe this film

Germania Anne Zero will gain popularity and be listed amongst the greatest films of all time!! Don't Miss It !!
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Survival of the 'filthiest' and not the 'fittest'? Maybe.
Koundinya11 May 2012
Warning: Spoilers
The last of Roberto Rossellini's 'War Trilogy' movies and it couldn't have been better. The movie is filmed in the backdrop of an obliterated Berlin where the survivors of the war fight for survival. The center character is that of a boy who makes a futile attempt to get a job and make money and keep his family of 4 meet the bills. They live at the mercy of the Rademakers. The boy, having failed to get a job, meets his former teacher who makes the boy trade his goods to the Americans. The boy befriends a girl, who despite being in her early teens, solicit to make a living(though not explicitly shown). The women in his house, his sister and the daughters of the Rademakers too date the Americans to earn a little money. The gullible boy gets persuaded by his pedophile teacher to end the life of his ailing father, how only the fittest deserve to survive; plants a sapling in the brain of the boy the Nazi principle of eugenics. The boy poisons his father to his death. After having realized what heinous crime he had committed, the boy commits suicide due to guilt.

The movie is well-written and the director's attempt to bring to the silver screen the struggle of those who'd lived through the war only to live in dilapidated buildings, no fixed job, no steady income and stricken by poverty is laudable.
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The greatest of all the neo-realist films
chrisburin29 October 2003
Warning: Spoilers
The bleakest of all the neo-realist films is, to my mind, perhaps the greatest. The lack of music means that our emotions are orchestrated completely by the story that unfolds on the screen. A complete absence of hope lies at the centre of the film, pervading every action, every word. An extraordinarily powerful film, whose horrific climax, with the childs suicide, serves only to heighten the effect of desperation.
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After the deluge.
dbdumonteil16 January 2002
Warning: Spoilers
The third part of a trilogy (paisa,Roma citta aperta),"Germania anno zero" is perhaps the strongest.Keeping the documentary side of the first two works,and adding an intimate insight into a small human microcosm,it is Rossellini's greatest achievements,that is to say one of the greatest of the whole cinema.

If I should choose a word to describe this black and white short movie (about 70 minutes),I would say "desperate".And desperate from start to finish.The first pictures show a huge panoramic over Berlin in ruins,then continue with a short scene displaying people digging graves in a cemetery.Then the child appears.We will live the whole tragedy through the boy's eyes.After all,children are always the first victims of any war of any country at any time of history.He takes us to his "home" where hopeless and starving people cram into.Black market,hunger and prostitution are rampant in the streets of the capital of a Reich which was to last two thousand years and which has now completely bled the country white.

Th old demons of Germany have not completely left the city:two ordinary people reckon that they are like slaves now,and they were men during the nazi days.The former school teacher explains the boy that improductive population (the child's father)must be eliminated,and that only the strong can survive.This man (probably pedophile)will lead his student to poison his sick father.A sublime shot shows ruins where a recorded screaming Hitler is heard.

SPOILERS*Spoilers* The last quarter of the movie is the most successful:eaten with remorse,the little unfortunate kid roams in this deserted city of the heart.No more words,only this ominous music:the music is very important in "Germania anna zero" ,sometimes it drowns out the dialogue.During this long walk across the buildings in ruins,the child tries to become a child again:we see him join a group of young ones playing ball,then he has some quick hopscotch jumps.Completely desperate,in an extreme moral solitude ,he goes up to the top of a building,then again,he uses a girder as a slide .Then he jumps and the drama is complete.A child's suicide will happen again in Rossellini's subsequent "Europa 51" End of SPOILERS.

Rossellini's camera is very mobile,the actors'playing is spontaneous and thus deeply moving ,particularly the young hero.A masterpiece.
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Another excellent Italian Neo-realist film
MartinHafer19 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
While this is far from the best from the Italian Neo-realist movement, it is among the better films of that style and is well worth seeing. The Neo-realist movement was, in part, necessitated by the effects of WWII. Many of the sets and cities of Italy and the rest of Europe were in ruins following the war and they could not afford to rebuild them or hire expensive stars. So, directors like De Sica and Rossellini responded by often filming around the rubble and using non-actors in these films dubbed "Neo-realist". While some often claim that these films originated AFTER the war, De Sica's THE CHILDREN ARE WATCHING is very much a film of this genre even though it was filmed in the middle of the war--well before Italy was reduced to rubble.

This movie is also a Neo-realist film but is unique in that it is not set in Italy, but in post-war Berlin. However, also unlike what you would expect, the actors all speak Italian (you would expect them to speak their native tongue, but this was a problem since it was marketed primarily to Italians, not Germans).

Germany YEAR ZERO is about the rebuilding of Germany and the chaotic state of the average person living in the city. Historically, it's a very important film because it was filmed throughout all the rubble that was still mostly present in 1947--you can see the effects of the Allied bombing and the battle for Berlin. However, instead of being a documentary about life in Berlin, the film is a fictionalized account of one family and their difficulties just surviving.

The Köhler family is a mess. The oldest son is hiding with his family, as he's afraid to give himself up to the Allies in order to get a work permit and food ration card--he was in the German Army and thinks they'll jail him or worse. And, in addition to him, there is a younger brother, Edmund, who is the focus of the film and his older sister and very sickly father. Since most of the apartments are in ruins, many families are crammed into single rooms in what is left and food is extremely scarce. About the only things not in short supply are Allied soldiers and the black market. Much of the film centers on the family's grim attempts just to survive.

Edmund is a "scrounger"--a young kid who does not go to school but spends his days trying to pick up a few dollars here and there in order to help feed the family. The problem is he's too young to be very effective at this, so through the course of the film he begins dabbling in illegal activities to make a few marks or bring home a few stolen potatoes. He naturally falls in with a bad crowd. Oddly, the man to introduce him to the bad crowd is his old school teacher, a bitter Nazi who is no longer allowed to teach since he was basically a propagandist during the old regime.

Several times throughout the film, Edmund goes to visit with this ex-teacher. One of the only negative aspects of the film is this teacher, as his character is a little hard to understand, as his mood and personality seem to change so ofter. Some times he's caring, other times he's a schemer and at one point he's inexplicably a real cold jerk. This is when Edmund comes to him to talk about his ailing father. The teacher, like a Nazi of old, says the old man is better off dead and Edmund takes that to mean he should Euthanize his father. That, combined with his Dad's comments about how he wished he were dead, make Edmund believe he is doing the right thing when he poisons his father. However, when he later tells the teacher that he killed his father, the man is angry and Edmund runs off and hides. At the very end of the movie, the boy cannot live with what he has done and kills himself.

So, it's obvious from my summary that the film is super depressing, though an amazing look at post-war Germany. While the acting is generally very good as well as the direction, the film's plot seems a tad difficult to believe but is very effective in shocking the audience. In many ways, this film is very reminiscent of Rossellini's more famous film, OPEN CITY.
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Better as a historical document than a film ...
ElMaruecan8216 April 2014
Besides victory and its subsequent prestige, one of the many privileges the winners get is the participation to the process of History writing. Naturally, it doesn't mean that this writing would be made of lies, but sometimes, we can lie by omission … there must be a reason why the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagazaki doesn't get the same emotional coverage than the Holocaust, or talking the bombing of Dresde or Cologne or any German town, seems indecent. Naturally, out of all the three Axis countries, Germany will pay the war's biggest price and carry forever the seal of infamy.

And this is why, even today, it's still embarrassing or discomforting to talk about the suffering of the German people. They started the war, after all, so in a way, they had it coming, and who'd cry on people who were so blinded they let a man like Hitler take the power. Of course, it takes to know a minimum about history to understand that there are fifty shades of gray in these black and white images, and that a poor German grandmother still has less blood in her hands than the pilot of the Enola Gay. But that's the essence of war, it is written by winners, and this is why, "Germany: Year Zero" is not a film, it's a historical document.

Its historical significance lies on the simple fact that the film is shot in 1947, when Germany was still inhabited by people who lived the War, where kids were still young enough to remember the Soviets coming to Berlin, where Hitler's voice still resonated in people's mind. Germany was slowly recovering from the pleas of World War II, the Nazi's officers were all hanged, some nostalgic kept a low profile, no doubt that Germany was at her lowest level, and an Italian director, Roberto Rosselini decided to show that historical sequence for posterity, as a part of his Post-War trilogy. I don't know if Italy being an Ally to Germany inspired this sympathy, but I can only applaud the gutsy aspect of the project.

"Germany: Year Zero" focuses on a little boy, named Edmund, and in the purest Neo-realist tradition, we're invited to follow a kid's journey within the ruins of a devastated Berlin, trying to find ways to nourish his impoverished family. And as we follow him, we realize that the greatest heals are the moral ones, those that can't be sealed like that, women tempted to prostitute themselves, impotent men condemned to be a burden for their family, young kids forced to steal, to smuggle food, young girls to exchange a few touching and kissing for cigarettes, an ex-soldier hiding not to be enrolled with the police and so-on and so forth … yet the most painful character's arc is for the little Edmund. As usual for Neo-Realism, kids represent the innocent present corrupted by the corrupting effects of the past on the future.

Edmund looks like one of these Hitlerian youth pictures, he's 13 but sounds younger, he's obviously a good kid, who hasn't been brainwashed by Nazi propaganda, but his ineptitude to read between the adult lines and to understand the lies and the cynicism will lead him to devastating decisions. And this is the story, Rosselini tells us, not Germany, but a part of Germany's soul lost by the War, whose effects are still significant even if the swastika is history. The film shows us another facet of war, it isn't over when it's over, its effects and damages last, and we can almost talk about a sacrificed generation. Those who fought died, those who lived will suffer, and when the baby-boomers will grow old, they'll understand why the elder say "a good war, that would teach you".

And after watching "Germany: Year Zero", I was glad I didn't have to go through that nightmare to understand the value of life. But I confess I didn't need the story for that, seeing the characters surrounding Edmund was enough. This is why, I'm asking myself if we, movie lovers, feel forced to love a film just for the subject it tackles. I will never go as far as saying that it is a bad movie, I must say the story of Edmund didn't leave me quite an impression, I mean, I felt sorrier for German people than Edmund. And I almost feel guilty for that, I mean, for once that a filmmaker decides to focus on a post-war Germany... It's not that I wanted to love the film, I thought I would love it, I loved "Bicycle Thieves" and much more "Sciuscia" but "Germany: Year Zero" left me cold.

I know the film is supposed to show a child lose his innocence, being a victim of desolation and the destruction of all the values that brandished the German flag higher than any European culture, but I couldn't find any difference between Edmund from the beginning and Edmund from the ending. The film is supposed to be dark, I give you that, but how about showing a truly enthusiastic kid in the beginning, eager to make money from black market, and then palpable reactions from all the hardship he endured, in other words: the kid wasn't a good actor or lacked some direction from Rosselini to make his character's arc believable.

"But neo-realism often employs amateurs actors", well, the main protagonist in "Bicycle Thieves" was an amateur, how about the performance of the child who played his son, or the other child in "Sciuscia". Yes, this is coming from someone who love Italian neo-realistic period and its influence on the 50's New Wave, this artistic wave is responsible for Fellini's greatest work. but these are movies about characters, it's all about hooking your heart on another one, no matter how flawed he or she is. But here, it's like Rosselini took for granted that because we're watching a child, it will win our sympathy.
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A shockingly realistic movie
Dockelektro18 November 2000
When I saw this one I noticed that it was a real risky step for an Italian to film a movie in a pratically devastated city, using citizens of the war enemy's nationality as the heroes of the film. In this one, Rossellini nearly forgives the Germans for everything they have done and depicts them in their actual situations (all the actors are real people). The boy in the lead role is really good, and the supporting cast is also very realistic. Thumbs up for the boldness!
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Zero for conduct
tangoviudo18 March 2006
This film was the first of a string of flops that never ended for Rossellini, after the international acclaim heaped on his first two neo-realist films, "Open City" and "Paisan". From here he began his well-publicized affair with Ingrid Bergman that finished off his career in florid melodramas like "Europa 51" and "Voyage to Italy".

A darling of "autistic" - er, rather, "auteurist" - film scholars, Rossellini made the odd choice of making a film in Berlin, with a German cast all dubbed into Italian. Watching the film with English subtitles proved to be too distracting, what with three different idioms on the screen at once. Rossellini once again proves he can work well with non-professionals, especially children. But his results remind me of Oscar Wilde's jibe at puppet shows: "What an economy of means! And what an economy of ends!" The music is horribly goading, like you're watching a suspense thriller in which there are neither suspense nor thrills. And rather than tragic, the ending is simply unconvincing - its very suddenness contributes to its pointlessness. Granted, watching more than an hour's worth of Berlin in ruins might make a viewer want to do the same.
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Bare Ruined Choirs.
rmax3048238 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Berlin the immediate aftermath of World War II. (Kids, that would be about 1947.) The city is a wreck, with only the essentials of life available. Food is difficult to come by. Bits of clothing are valuable. Rosselini follows the fortunes of one family living in an apartment that makes even mine look good.

Papa is sick in bed, suffering from malnutrition and devitaminosis. He's not filled with despair exactly but there are times when he wishes himself to be out of the way. It's a family of four but they are trying to survive on only three ration cards because his older son, who fought the war to its bitter end, is afraid to turn himself in, despite reassurances from others that he won't be punished by the Allied occupation authorities. He's in his 20s and he's bitter as hell about it all. There is a blond daughter too, and she takes care of Papa when she's not out banging soldiers for a few cigarettes.

But the story centers about Edmund, the younger son, who is about twelve years old. He's just at that age at which people begin to form a more enduring pictures of themselves but his particular self image has a multitude of lacunae. He absorbs what values and ideas he can from his family but they're all screwed up by poverty.

Then, among his Dickensian adventures, Edmund runs into his former teacher, who does him little favors and caresses his cheek lasciviously. Herr Professor seems to have a thing going with a stern, authoritarian figure who apparently has a thing going with several young boys.

The teacher is not merely a pimp but a philosopher and as he guides Edmund around through the streets that have only recently been cleared of broken granite, he begins to spout a kind of Social Darwinism, as much to himself as to Edmund, and without passion or even much conviction. You know, the weak must die and get out of the way for the strong; the survival of the fittest; dog eat dog; it's a zero sum game.

Edmund, though, is a kid and he takes this bushwa seriously because he doesn't know the difference between philosophy and everyday life. Shakespeare, for what it's worth, new the difference. In "The Merry Wives of Windsor," he has Falstaff remark sarcastically, "There never was philosopher could bear the toothache patiently." But Edmund is too young to know. So he goes home, poisons Papa, and the old man dies. No one knows what Edmund did, so he's taken aback by all the grief shown by the family and the neighbors. Not that the sadness of Papa's passing prevents the neighbors from speculating about what will be done with Papa's shoes.

There is also the problem of the body. What do you do with a corpse when you don't have money for a casket, let alone a funeral? You can't just let it lie there. (For me, the most horrifying episode on "Crime and Punishment" was when a man dies in Raskolnikov's apartment house and, the family having no money, the body deteriorates and causes a smell.) The neighbors haul the body out onto the balcony and leave the family to deal with it.

I wonder if, in a way, the story of Edmund's development is not meant as a summary of the evolution of Germany before, during, and after the war. He begins as a naif. Then, under the tutelage of a reckless and unthinking lunatic, he embraces a dangerous philosophy. And then he suffers the same fate as his nation.
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the price of war
mukava99129 January 2017
The print of "Germania Anno Zero" discussed below was hard to watch because although it takes place in the post-WW2 ruins of Berlin, the German cast is overdubbed in Italian and the subtitles are in English. As if this weren't enough, the abundant dialogue is delivered very rapidly, in the Italian style, so the eye and attention are constantly darting from the actors to the subtitles and missing the emotional and visual element. And if you don't follow the subtitles you miss telling details of what's going on. Reviews from the period of its initial release indicate that it was once screened in German with English subtitles. Perhaps that print has been lost; if so, a shame. The Italian language, being so very different from German in its feel and cadence, not only disorients us but dilutes the essence of the experience.

Another problem is the acting, which is mostly on the wooden side so you never get under the characters' skin. At the heart of the film is a little boy, and simply because he is a little boy he touches our hearts – but only to an extent; his acting is so robotic that it's hard to tell what he is feeling so that the film's resolution comes as quite an arbitrary shock. The whole film, in fact, has a perfunctory and contrived structure like a diagram hastily drawn on a blackboard brought to life.

That said, this film is worth seeing simply because of where and when it was filmed. It's a quasi documentary showing the price of war on human beings. But it's not the only one of its kind. "The Big Lift" and "A Foreign Affair" were also filmed in post-WW2 Berlin and dealt with the effect of war on the populace. I think what added to the impact made by neo-realist films of the late 40s was their immediacy, use of actual - and usually harsh - locations and non-professional actors. Those elements seemed refreshing and bracing to audiences who had been accustomed to the artificiality of the Hollywood template.
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Shocking for the sake of it
Horst_In_Translation12 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
"Germania anno zero" is a black-and-white sound movie from 1948, so this one soon has its 70th anniversary. The star here is the director, namely Roberto Rossellini, who also wrote the film. The film basically plays also the very same time when it was made, namely in Germany that is completely destroyed after World War II. We follow a little boy named Edmund, also the actor's real name, and the actor is one of several examples from this movie who never appeared in a film before or afterward again. The reason may be that Rossellini usually made Italian-language films, so this one is a big exception and he could obviously not cast the people from this film again because of language barriers. However, this is also not a big problem as, in my opinion, none of the actors left a really lasting impression. But the real problem here was the story. There were 2 really shocking developments at the end of the film, one in the very last scenes, and I felt none of these felt authentic or realistic unfortunately.

The movie is about a boy who meets a former teacher and makes a connection with him. As the teacher is still a loyal Nazi, obviously nothing good can follow from it. I guess people from allied countries must have really enjoyed this film back then as it shows the Nazis at pure evil, but really never gets to the core of the problem. It was never about making people kill other people for them. It was all about committing the crimes themselves and talk and act towards the people in a manner that they accept it as necessary, but do not really do it themselves. This is also why I guess the film does not make much sense in a political context, apart from believing that the boy's actions, especially the killing did not make any sense and would not have happened like this in reality. And the film is all about these developments really. The scenes that do not have to do with these, or almost not, are not very interesting to watch either. I have not seen any other Rossellini films I think, but this one here did not get me in the mood to do so anytime soon. Fairly disappointing and I do not recommend it. Good thing it only runs for a very short 73 minutes as these felt already too long. The IMDb rating is way too high. I give "Germania anno zero" a thumbs down.
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