Along with Vittoria De Sica's masterpiece Bicycle Thieves, Rome, Open City is considered the quintessential example of the Italian neo realism movement. The great Italian director Roberto Rossellini created not only a film of such powerful documentary like realism but also a film that can be viewed at as a groundbreaking work of historical importance for its time. Neorealism, as a term, can mean several things; it often refers to films of working class life and of the struggles and social conditions of people set in the culture of poverty. Rome, Open City was written by the legendary director Federico Fellini before he made his great mark in Italian film history, as its story is based on several true events in which a resistance leader is being hunted down by the Gestapo during the Nazi occupation of Rome during World War II. With help from allies and a loyal priest who is secretly helping the resistance, he plans to flee Rome and to get to safety under a new identity.
Rossellini had been making films under the Fascist regime for years and yet was still able to produce stories that portrayed the intelligence, strength and hope of a liberated Italy. Rossellini originally wanted to make the story into two small documentaries but was later suggested to combine the idea and make a feature film. To be able to make the film at time when there was hardly any film industry left in Italy, no money to fund the project and just two months after the Allies had forced the Nazis to evacuate the city of Rome, is extraordinary. The devastation that was the result of the war surrounded Rossellini, Fellini and Sergio Amidei, as they wrote the script for the film, and they declared publicly that the film would be a history of the Roman people under Nazi occupation. The films honest treatment of war, torture, martyrdom and violence quickly moved audiences and it is now looked at as one of the most powerful war films ever made. In one of the most infamous scenes of the film the character of Pina getting shot and killed in the middle of the streets while chasing after her fiancée after he's been abducted by the Gestapo, is based on the real story of Teresa Gullace who was killed by the Germans in front of the barracks on viale Giulio Cesare.