Germany Year Zero

Germany Year Zero

Infobox Film
name = Germania, anno zero

caption =
director = Roberto Rossellini
producer = Salvo D'Angelo,
Roberto Rossellini
writer = Roberto Rossellini,
Max Kolpé,
Sergio Amidei
narrator =
starring = Edmund Moeschke,
Ernst Pittschau,
Ingetraud Hinze,
Franz-Otto Krüger,
Erich Gühne
music = Renzo Rossellini
cinematography = Robert Juillard
editing = Eraldo Da Roma
prod.companies = Produzione Salvo D'Angelo and Tevere Film
distributor = G.D.B. Film
released = December 1 1948 (Italy)
runtime = 78 min.
country = Italy
language = German,
budget =
preceded_by =
followed_by =
website =
amg_id =
imdb_id = 0039417

"Germania, anno zero" ("Germany Year Zero") is the final film in Roberto Rossellini's famed war movie trilogy (the first two being "Rome, Open City" and "Paisà"). Unlike the first two movies, "Germany Year Zero" takes place in post-war Germany instead of a post-war Italy. However, it continues to present a vision of Christian Humanism that makes up the ideological core of his two earlier films. Rossellini wished to express how the vile and unnatural elements of nazism had corrupted German society. As in many neorealist films, Rossellini uses mainly local, non-professional actors. It also used on location sites in Berlin, as well as constructed sets in Rome. It is meant to convey the reality of the first year after the end of the Nazi regime in Germany, which for Rossellini always includes its internal, spiritual side (not only materiality). When explaining his ideas about realism in an interview, he said, "realism is nothing other than the artistic form of the truth" (Rossellini 35).


The story follows a twelve year old boy, Edmund Koeler. Edmund lives with his ailing father and his brother and sister in a bombed apartment building with five other families. His sister, Eva, is unjustly accused of prostituting herself to the Allied officers that now reign in Berlin. His brother, Karl-Heinz, has not stepped forward to register with the new police force because he is afraid of punishment for being a part of a Nazi regiment that fought the Allies to the bitter end.

While his family is preoccupied with these things, Edmund is mainly left to his own devices in order to survive and also in order to help his family survive as well, for without Karl-Heniz's registration with the authorities he cannot work. Edmund partakes in the black market that rules Berlin at this time and is cheated by an adult as well as a group of older children who are much more savvy to street life than Edmund who (at least for a time) manages to salvage some sense of childhood innocence. He is eventually corrupted by various forces resulting from the fallout of Nazi rule.

The group of teens are one such example. They introduce him to scamming people and stealing and also introduce him to the adult vice of casual sex. Similarly, Mr. Henning (a former school teacher of Edmund's) also corrupts Edmund and represents the Nazi party more explicitly, for he still holds Nazi values and profits from the sale of Nazi artifacts on the black market. He praises Edmund for joining the Hitler Youth when his father tried to get him exempt. In addition, he is harboring a Nazi general. Mr. Henning is also painted as being a homosexual and a paedophile, which Rossellini tried to express through showing his less than honorable intentions towards young Edmund. To an audience at the time, homosexuality would have been viewed as deviant; especially in the mostly Catholic western Europe. In fact, the Catholic Church was a present force in the first two films of the trilogy, but in "Germany, Year Zero", Rossellini makes no reference to the Church as a chance for redemption.

This series of corruptive elements that come in contact with Edmund leads ultimately to the culmination of the embodiment of evil Nazism. After visiting Mr. Henning while looking for help, Edmund is told by his former teacher that his father should die because the weak die and the strong survive and that is the way life is. Edmund interprets these words in an extreme manner (as the Nazi government had to a much greater extent) and proceeds to poison his father in order to relieve his suffering and lift the burden placed on his family to take care of the sick aging man. Afterwards, Edmund is unable to bear the guilt of having done such a thing and throws himself out of a burned building across the street from where his family lives, falling to his death.


Though criticized for such a controversial ending by some, Rossellini has defended it with the argument that it's not about punishment for the crimes of the German government (and the German people) but it should be viewed as a hopeful ending. That in the death of Edmund, so too die the tainted morals imposed on him by the Nazi society in which he was raised. This can be contrasted with "Rome, Open City" in which Marcello (the young hero) and his young playmates march down the hill toward Rome. They will be the new generation that will begin to forget and heal Europe. The opposite sentiment is found here; a child's death is what serves as a symbolic end to the era of fascism.

ocial significance

Like the other two films in the trilogy "Germany, Year Zero" is a tale of morality and serves as a modern folk-tale for post-war Europe. It is an important reminder of the destruction of Berlin, as real rubble serves as the backdrop, perhaps even a character, of the film. Further, the poor and impoverished conditions of the city are not part of a set, but could be considered an important document of the destruction of Berlin. Most of the dialogue is simple and often melodramatic. Morality tales played an important role in war torn Europe, as they tried to grapple withthe calamity of the war. The question remains open whether they can be understood as an attempt to put to death the evil immorality fostered by the ideals of Nazi Germany and begin to heal the wounds resulting from this, or whether they helped remove collective guilt without serious reflection.

Further reading

*Serceau, Michel. Roberto Rossellini. Paris: Les Editions du Cerf, 1986.
*Guarner, Jose L. Trans. Elizabeth Cameron. New York: Praeger, 1970.
*Brunette, Peter. Roberto Rossellini. New York: Oxford University P, 1987.
* Rossellini, Roberto. My Method: Writings and Interviews. Adriano Aprà, ed. Trans: Annapaola Cancogni. New York : Marsilio Publishers, 1992.

External links

*imdb title|id=0039417|title=Germania Anno Zero
*tcmdb title|id=412000|title=Germania Anno Zero
*rotten-tomatoes|id=germany_year_zero|title=Germany Year Zero

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