Roberto Rossellini’s ”Viva l’Italia” is a documentary made to celebrate the centenary of Italy. The Italian government commissioned Rossellini to make a biopic of Giuseppe Garibaldi would follow his exploits with ‘the Thousand’ and their role in the country’s unification. Rossellini approached the film by presenting the main character in neo-realist mode, as though making a documentary. This is the first North American home video release of “Viva l’Italia”.
An orchestral preamble concluding with a skirmish against a cobalt blue sky fades to where we see Garibaldi (Renzo Ricci) a middle-aged, ginger-bearded, rheumatic who is serenely determined. He squats by the meadow to savor some local bread and as the Redshirts charge uphill, the camera takes a paradoxically distant and urgent view of the clashing brigades. This is a study in long shots that takes us to the Calabrese coast where we see the regiment stationed on the opposite beachfront. We then follow an officer into town where there or clandestine meetings and round-ups. A shepherdess (Giovanna Ralli) sacrifices herself, “a trampled body beneath the steamroller of history.” The film is a vision of reconstruction from a director who witnessed the nation’s fall.
About one and a half hours into the film, a singer meets Garibaldi and expresses his joy by saying that, “Before all these rare beauties, I came here, and tonight I want to sing many songs. Songs without preparations, written as they came, without style, or pretension… Songs which make the heart speak.”
The camera constantly zooms in and out of the war scenes telling the story of battle with extraordinary precision, and beauty and the film is a story of extended liberation. It is both visually inspiring and beautiful to watch. The film empathizes with history, and its characters and we understand the formation of nation-states. Rossellini allows determinism, understands the forces that drive history, but also embraces the human beings who drove it.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS include:
Brand new 2K restoration from the original negative
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original Italian mono soundtracks with optional English subtitles
“Garibaldi”, an alternate shorter cut of the film originally prepared for the US market
Brand-new interview with Roberto Rossellini’s assistant on the film, Ruggero Deodato, recorded exclusively for this release
”I Am Garibaldi”, a brand-new visual essay by Tag Gallagher, author of The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini: His Life and Films
Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Sean Phillips
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet containing new writing on the film by filmmaker and critic Michael Pattison