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One of the most horrible results of the War in Europe is that it has bred a generation of children without a childhood. The normally irresponsible years of infancy and adolescence must be replaced by a competition for survival; the process of maturity becomes the development of an emotional callousness. Of all the post-war movies ("Shoe Shine," "The Search," "The Bicycle Thief") that have described these children, "Germany Year Zero" presents the most drastic outcome--the story of a twelve-year-old boy who was so embittered by life during his few years that he committed suicide.
Both the physical and emotional setting of the picture are excellent. The young boy, like a seed trying to push roots into barren soil seeks affection, companionship and even faith in his environment. But because Berlin is so desolate and its people reduced to such hopelessness, the boy finds no answer but death. Producer and director, Roberto Rossellini's photography captures perfectly the demolished physical atmosphere of war-term Berlin, while the plot progression skillfully works out the emotional sterility of most of the characters.
But the movie fails in comparison to its predecessors because of a misplaced dramatic emphasis and the generally stilted acting. Before Killing himself, the boy has already poisoned his father so that there will be more food for the rest of the family; thus the climax can come at either one of the two deaths. As for the acting, the German east seems to lack a familiarity with the warm, off-hand touches of Rossellini's style. The most important thing about "Germany Year Zero" is its implication that selectivity is at work, that the only survivors of such desolation will be another strong and heartless race. You can't help fearing such a race--a nation of men who had no childhood.
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