Edmund is a fallen angel, repossessed by the spirit of the Hitler Youth, poisoning his virtues. The third and most disheartening film in his War Trilogy, Roberto Rossellini examines the corrupted values of the German population who now must eat the fruit of the poisonous tree, and finds that they are no different from any other patriot.
Rossellini once again utilizes a neo-realistic style by eschewing professional actors and moving the camera into the ravaged streets of war-torn Berlin. The cinematography captures Germany’s damaged capitol in graphic detail, shells of buildings haunting the landscape and crippled citizens as ethereal as ghosts, lank and starving amid the aftermath. The narrative focuses upon a small group of survivors living on rationed time, and a little boy who watches his father slowly die from physical and emotional entropy.
Edmund doesn’t understand the chaos around him as his family structures crumbles; his search for fatherly guidance leads him over the edge of madness, an apt metaphor for a country whose honorific was the Fatherland. Victimized because of his naiveté and initiated into the sins of adulthood without truly comprehending the outcome of his actions, Edmund wanders alleys choked with the detritus of violence. An empty church groans with the curse of a bleating organ, an vapid prayer for respite of deific vengeance, a dire echo of Edmund’s existential fear. The responsibility of his father’s death weighs heavily upon his consciousness, his internal struggle manifests as outward violence and a giant leap of desperation.
A young boy goes over the edge and into the dark waters of Lethe, while his grieving family is left in the wake. Final Grade: (A)