21: Germany Year Zero (DVD)

I’m not sure what I expected from Rosselini’s Germany Year Zero. I knew it was a key Italian Neo-Realist film without perhaps knowing what that meant (my neo-realism begins and ends with The Bicycle Thief, and I come to that via the Icicle Thief). I suppose I didn’t expect dubbed Italian dialogue as Edmund slumps through the rather powerful ruins of Berlin. Now I know that Italian films were routinely dubbed, but I supposed that part of the draw of neo-realism was presenting a story in a more raw, documentary style than the forties were used to. Germany Year Zero does this except everyone seems to be speaking with a fruity Italian accent (I don’t speak Italian, but I can tell when its not German). The fact that the actors are all German and are clearly dubbed by others isn’t really the point – and the diagetic sound mix is excellent. But, my years of seeing subtitled films suggest, wouldn’t it have been better in German? Perhaps the most powerful and jarring moment of the film is when a record of one of Hitler’s speeches is played. And that is in German.

It turns out there is a German dub, which is on YouTube (below), and the accents and tone of the language fit the depression in the film much more. But the German version has much worse dubbing. It is possible.that it has a wholly different script to what the German actors are actually saying. Anyway would I have batted an eye if this had been in English, but still called neo-realism? Probably not, my cultural imperialism is too strong for that. It does strike me though that rather than aiming for some sort of Casablanca Warner 40’s sweep when Steven Soderbergh made The Good German, that this is actually the film he should have been pastiching.

Film 2Oh!! is an attempt to write about every film I have seen this year which is really quite tricky. This year I have seen 115 films, written about 21. I am losing.