Elia Kazan on Anna Magnani: Always Fully Ready

Interview with James Grissom
New York

[Anna] Magnani was always fully ready to give when she acted. There was no emotional vanity--or physical vanity, for that matter: All she cared to do or wanted to do or was truly capable of doing was letting you know how she--in her unique fashion--felt and responded. It was art. You know, that scene in Open City is so clearly the inspiration for the pivotal scene in Sophie's Choice, when Meryl Streep must decide which child will remain by her side and which child will be sent away to a certain death. The scenes are not identical, but you can discern fingerprints, and Rossellini was a purist, and his work was delivered on a brutal and piercing blade, while the director of Sophie's Choice [Alan J. Pakula] constructed an extended, increasingly weakening scene. I prefer Rossellini's version, because life is sickeningly swift; the tragic and the comic arrive with stunning speed, and our emotions are right there to save or to destroy us. And I get that in Open City, and I always got that with Magnani.


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