Cinema From The Ruins

Kenneth R. Morefield compares Robert Rossellini’s Rome, Open City, which came out shortly after the end of WWII, to contemporary films. He praises Rossellini for framing “his characters’ struggles within a long historical perspective”:

 [T]he sweeping historical perspective of Rossellini’s films highlights rather than diminishes their moral questions. They force us to look beyond the scope of one life or one generation. And in so doing, they invite an analysis that is broader than what most current movie narratives provide.

You can find a striking contrast to Rome, Open City in Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, which compresses over a decade of action into a single narrative. By doing so, it reduces the breadth of its moral questions (such as the use of torture) from the broadly philosophical or moral (“is it right?”) to the narratively pragmatic (“did it work?”). Ben Affleck’s Argo uses history as merely a backdrop, with the roots of the Iranian revolution covered in a two minute prologue and the coming years of war between Iran and Iraq elided as champagne is served on the plane, accompanied by retrospective pats on the back. But the inability to consider moral questions that stem beyond “the mission” is not unique to Argo – just most pronounced in it.