New York, December 1947
Anna Magnani is one of the players who made Open City the fine dramatic entertainment it was and here again she acquits herself of another powerful, poignant performance that is worthy of some of the best screen tragediennes of the time.
Revenge (original title: Un uomo ritorna) has an almost documentary clarity about it as it unfolds a story of post war Romans, their smoldering hatred and distaste for the aftermath of conflict and its resultant impress on once decent, fine people.
Strong dialogue and situations form the dramatic substance here as the scenario takes up the return of a prisoner of war to find the woman he loves almost on the point of derangement over concern for her son who was taken for slave labor. Then, too, his sister, is running around with the wrong kind of company. His young brother lurks precariously on black market fringes. The soldier, Gino Cervi, finds his home town in suburban Rome fairly destroyed but sets about to restore it to productivity by putting an electric power plant into action. He is thwarted for a time by bureaucracy. Meanwhile, Miss Magnani learns the collaborator responsible for her son’s disappearance, is in nearby hiding. He is taken and stands trial. In court she learns her son was murdered. She becomes maniacal in her desire for the man’s death and unable to achieve this end she visits his home in a moment of passionate rage intending to kill his children. She comes to her senses before she can make the horrible error. Cervi induces all concerned to go to his home. The family seems headed for happier times at the conclusion with the problems of the various individuals set to rights once more.
It is not a pretty spectacle, this revealing of inner emotional upheavals. It was not intended to be. Performances are genuine, direction realistic.
There are some highly dramatic sequences in Revenge, highlighted by the magnificent acting of Anna Magnani, which seems to have become a yardstick by which to measure motion picture product coming from Italy. Revenge is no Open City, but is an interesting drama of Italy during 1945 and 1946 during which the people of bombed towns and villages were confronted with the seemingly impossible task of starting their lives over again almost from scratch. It is when Anna Magnani finds that her son had been murdered by a collaborator who had eventually received a sentence of “only” 20 years that she sets out to kill his children so that he, too, can know something of the way she and other parents felt about her own. And it is this sequence that almost raises the collective hair of audiences.