Night of the Shooting Stars (1982) (R)
"Night of the Shooting Stars" may just be the one of the most original and daring movies made about the WWII era. The reason being, because audiences have practically seen everything made about the subject. We've seen the POWs exemplified in movies like "The Bridge on the River Kwai". We've seen Holocaust movie after Holocaust movie. Then we've seen the other side of the coin with film like "All Quiet on the Western Front" or "Das Boot"; but have we really seen a movie about the common folk. The most likely film you can conjure up is "Life Is Beautiful"; but there again you have the solitary tale of a lone person.
"Night of the Shooting Stars" is never so crass as to make you believe that its story is about one person. It is both grossly sentimental and unflinchingly resolved—the two come as a one-two punch to the gut. The film makes you question cinema as a whole. It makes you angry. It makes you sad. It makes you sit back and surrender yourself to it, as I've found that all true masterpieces do. Above all else, it tells a story as fancifully, realistically, touchingly, lovingly, and beautifully as it can and I find that I buy it.
The movie is not without its critics, evidenced by the fact that even though the film got accolades at the Cannes Film Festival it went completely unloved at the Academy Awards, though some of the aspect of the film like its score and the cinematography should have gotten nominations.
I had a problem with Fellini's "Amarcord" because I felt like it didn't condense an entire town the way it should have, the way that most people believe that it did. With "Night of the Shooting Stars", my arguments fall to the ground. Just when you think that the film has gone too far—or even not far enough—your qualms are alleviated...at least, mine were.
Set in the late years of WWII in Italy—San Martino to be precise—a village is under duress, a story of heartache and survival unfolds. There is a desperation, a hurried neediness that the film captures so well. The people rush everywhere in the day, trying to get from place to place as quickly as they can. The reason for this is up to the viewer. They could be running from the Germans, towards loved ones, from ideas rather than people...who knows?
At the movie's opening, we are privy to a wedding ceremony where a priest marries two people who have previously been living "in sin". After the wedding, the group shares some bread before parting their ways.
A young man has returned home and he finds that his house has a green cross painted on it. That means that the Germans will blow it up, the time of the demolition is unknown. He is taken to a shelter were a larger group of people are hiding.
After much deliberation, some of them decide to fell San Martino in the hopes of finding the Americans.
Though the film is narrated by a woman who is remembering her time when she was six, the movie transcends its narrator. It never cements the style, often swaying from character to character without the presence of the young girl. Still, life through a young girl's eyes can be rather entertaining at times, and rather horrifying at others.
"Night of the Shooting Stars" is one of the best movies made about the time period, simply for how devastating the story is. It's a happy story also, the two conflicting sides compliment each other.
Simply put, it's quite masterful.
Posted by Micah Jones