Pina symbolizes the Innocent victims of the Nazi-Fascist repression
She symbolizes the figure of the mother, who tries to protect her children and the people she loves from the horrors of war
Even if she is not an armed fighter she fights his war for freedom and dies for it.
The character of Pina is inspired by Teresa Gullace, an Italian woman killed by Nazi soldiers during the occupation of Rome, who was killed on 3 March 1944 while trying to speak to her husband, prisoner of the Germans.
The price of freedom
The film begins with images of a mass of people attacking a bakery … one of them is Pina
They are hungry people who are asking for bread. The owner of the bakery instead says that the bread and flour are finished. But this is not true. In reality, bread and flour are hidden to be sold on the black market.
It is only the intervention of a policeman who solves the situation: this policeman is also hungry but because of the uniform he wears can’t participate in the assault on the bakery and bring bread to his family … Pina understands the situation and she decides to share the bread with him.
Sharing bread is symbolic … it is one of the different moments in history that refer to a Christian symbolism. In fact, in this film, Rossellini makes extensive use of analogies and symbolism that refer to the Christian faith: the values of equality, solidarity and sharing of Rossellini do not refer to a communist ideology but to a Christian ideal.
Before splitting up, the policeman asks Pina if she has heard the news about the advance of the allies and if she thinks they are true. Pina looks at the bombed building and answers “it seems so, yes”
Pina’s sentence, however, is not accusatory towards the allies … her look is that of someone who knows that freedom has a price and she is willing to accept any sacrifice for this
Related topic: Annonaria card and rationing of food during the war
We believe in God
Pina meets Manfredi for the first time, but she knows that he is one of the leaders of the resistance … tells him that the next day she would be married to Francesco, in church …
Initially she says “it’s better to be married by a priest than by a fascist public official …”
But then she thinks back and says … no, actually we believe in God
In this way, Rossellini dispels the myth that all partisans were atheists, communists and enemies of the church. In reality, there were many believers among the partisans, sometimes mixed with those communists, sometimes instead grouped in the so-called Green Flames Brigades
Because of the guerrilla action of Marcello and his friends, the Nazis adopt the strategy of decimation, that is, they capture ten men for every German wounded or killed, with the intent of shooting them. Francesco is one of the captured men. Pina, desperate, runs behind the truck screaming his name … but a burst of machine gun shot by a German kills her and her son who is not yet born.
This is one of the most famous scenes of Italian cinema. The fame is due to the drama of the action and the fact that this scene effectively symbolizes the oppression suffered by the Italians who were left in the hands of the Nazis from 8 September 1943. (the occupation of Rome lasted from September 8th 1943 to June 4th 1944).
The director’s intention is to show the cruelty of the Nazi occupiers and how many innocent lives have been taken by those who, after the fall of Mussolini, showed their true face, moving from allies to predators of the Italian people.
“Even without departing substantially from the record of the events, Rossellini has staged, perhaps without realizing it, a sacred representation of the Passion, which is set in the modern era.” (Virgilio Fantuzzi, Reflections of religious iconography in the film “Roma città aperta” by Roberto Rossellini, “La Civiltà Cattolica”, notebook n. 3489, 4 November 1995)