MHZ Presents THE PASSION OF ANNA MAGNANI Film Review — Passionate Symbol of Rome


Anna is staring in the mirror while a French journalist behind her is asking if people are afraid of her. Magnani, who is called The Hurricane, has a reputation for being determined, headstrong, forceful and high-voltage. She is most notable for refusing to conform to the Fascist model.Seemingly out of respect for the interviewer, Anna turns to her replying that sometimes people bite out for fear of being attacked. Magnani shares that she hates injustices and hypocrisy.  When she’s then asked if  she doesn’t feel that being able to say what she thinks is a luxury, she responds, with her well-known explosive laugh.  That, she explains, is a luxury she pays for and is happy to pay for---feeling free inside is her top priority.

These few concepts can describe perfectly the soul of this woman whom the filmmaker introduces us to — her strength, passion, and especially the way she is so different from all the other celebrities who came before and after. She represented women in films with suffering and elation, and all  in-between, conquering everybody as far as Hollywood. Deeply attached to Rome and the spirit of Rome, Magnani epitomized an authentic ,non-conformist way to live.   She is known for living her life with bravery and intensity, expressed through her art—the stage first, and then the cinema. She believed that the good characters are those you can meet in everyday life-- and in this writer’s view she was right. With a uniquely modern style, Anna thus became a symbol of the true woman,  in contrast to the female persona moulded by male desire.

Throughout the film, the Author Enrico Cerasuolo, talks with the actress in an imaginary conversation that guides us through her movies characters, her interviews, and testimonials of the many notables whose path  crossed with hers during her career. 

The narrative takes shape starting with the first shooting of Rome Open City, one of the most famous Italian neorealist dramas by filmmaker Roberto Rossellini.  Pina (Anna Magnani), with a deep and scary voice is calling Francesco, her fiancée, warning him that Germans and Fascists are surrounding their building. Stunning panoramic views of the colorful Città Eterna, the Eternal City, with its palazzos, monuments and churches under a clear blue sky, give the feeling of beauty and immensity. 

Then come the Nazis, and those same palazzos, monuments and churches are now seen in black and white, stepping us back to 1945.  Italy was actually still at war during the shooting of the film. Pina, seeing her man being taken away by the Nazis, breaks through a cordon of police. As she runs towards Francesco, she is shot dead. Through this scene, Anna conveys the horrors of the war to cinema screens around the world.  She becomes the symbol of a new genre that takes to the streets to tell the facts of real life.

In Italy, it is common knowledge that  Rome, Open City received a mediocre reception from Italian audiences when it was first released.  It was a time when Italian people were said to want escapism after the war. However, it became more popular as the film's reputation grew in other countries.

THE PASSION OF ANNA MAGNANI is also told by her loving son

One of the most beautiful passages of the film, in this writer’s view, is the intimate portrait that Luca, Anna’s son, draws of his late mother. We meet Luca as an 80 year-old man, with a body that bears the signs of his poliomyelitis. It is a melancholic shot of Anna Magnani, a moving account and, at the same time modest, and steeped in reverence and respect. Born from a very brief affair with a young actor, Luca recounts in the film how he never met his father, but always grew up with his mother’s love. He describes her as a precursor of feminism, and as a self-made woman who never relied on anyone besides herself. You too may agree that by showing the weak side of his character, he appears as a proof of sorts of how one had to compensate with Anna’s volcanic, proud, iron-willed and rebellious nature. Paintings, pictures, letters and awards on the walls of his entire apartment, bring his memories of Anna to the present. Every one of his words speak to the true essence of Magnani—her battle to be actress and mother, to work and raise a child alone.


Fellini’s admiration of Magnani is also part of this film and her story. In one sequence, we see a lady heading home walking through an old palazzo in the heart of Rome, at night. She is actually Anna, considered a symbol of the Eternal City. She opens a door and Federico (Fellini) invites her, with his best director voice, to leave a comment in front of the camera. The scene has the flavor of a stakeout.  Actually the dialogue had been pre-agreed upon to depict a perfect acting out of an unplanned encounter: Can I ask you a question? No, I don’t trust you, go home to bed. Bye.  Later, in Fellini’s Roma, a 1972 semi-autobiographical comedy-drama film, the last shot is for her: remembering Anna’s best side, her strong personality and her sense of irony. It is this side of Magnani that makes her a legend not only to Fellini but to all Italians. During Benito Mussolini’s rule, she was known to make rude jokes about the Italian Fascist Party.

THE PASSION OF ANNA MAGNANI captures the psychological and sociological side of the many myths about Magnani, a legend in Italy and beyond . She left an indelible mark in the international film industry, breaking Hollywood’s traditional model of stardom. She endures as a model of how women can change the world, and impose their example, by employing courage, perseverance and resiliency. If you too are fascinated by this feminist model, this film is especially a top pick for you.    


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Director-screenwriter: Enrico Cerasuolo
Producers: Massimo Arvat, Estelle Fialon
Director of photography: Marco Pasquini
Editor: Marco Duretti
Music: Cristiano Lo Mele

For more information or to watch the film visit the MHZ Networks Library.


Images courtesy of MHZ Networks.


Chiara Berzieri

About the Author: Chiara Berzieri

Chiara Berzieri –brings a keen eye for detail and multi-lingual expertise to be the copy editor for Picture This Post European travel stories. She has a deep interest in architecture, photography and culture.

Born and raised in the sixties in Milan, the Fashion City, Chiara moved to Varese, 40 km north, near Switzerland, famous for its Italian Liberty Style and for its stunning position around the Italian Lake District, one of the most beautiful environmental areas of Europe.  After graduating in Varese, she worked for many years for Attorney at Law firms. In 2005, Chiara moved to Modena, the City of Pavarotti and car makers as Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati.

2009 was the year that Chiara discovered Umbria – the green heart of Italy – by chance, touring the country by car. She says, “I found in the green landscapes of Valdichiana the authenticity of its welcoming people. In 2010 I bought a 19th century building, totally abandoned, Podere Molinaccio, and started the renovation and modernization work with great satisfaction. Today I’m an enthusiastic, curious and happy host at Podere Molinaccio of people from all over the world!"

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