As the old expression goes, I’m ‘late to the party’ with this one. I only heard about this film a few months ago, after watching it, I wish I would have seen it much sooner. 1982’s The Night Of The Shooting Stars, seems to combine everything you’ve seen in a motion picture about war, and touch every emotion at the same time. I’d even go so far as to say, that this is a film on par with the Jean Renoir’s The Grand Illusion. Showing both the reality of war, and the triumph of the human condition. Set up as a flashback, a woman tells her small child her experiences in the last days of the war.
The film is set in Italy in the closing days of WWII, and follows a group of villagers on the run from fascist Italian troops, as well as the retreating Germany armies. They fell their small village in an attempt to reach the safety of invading allied troops. Upon the surface, the first act almost seems like a throwback to the days of the Italian Neorealism movement of the 1950’s. Very soon however, that quickly changes. Rather than show the ugliness of war, it focuses on the villagers individual struggle as individuals, and several fantasy sequences told from the perspective of the young girl telling the story. Which is what makes this film so endearing, the clash of the struggle of the adults with the reality infolding around them, with the imagination of a child finding an escape, to the carnage unfolding around her. Successfully combining the departure from reality one might find in a Fellini film, with the humanity expressed by filmmakers such as Renoir and Bernardo Bertalucci. Combining humor, melodrama, and fantasy to weave a complex tale.
As far the the violence of the film, this is a war movie so it’s present, but not graphic and explicit. The scenes contained within the film are essential to the story, and the illustrate that warfare affects everyone involved. The films climax, a fight in a cornfield between the villagers and the fascists illustrates there are no victors in war, everyone suffers in one way or another.
A film that’s overlooked and underrated. We all suffer, and we all triumph, this is one of the best films to illustrate that.