Fascists search for a resistance leader who is helped by a priest but betrayed by a friend and tortured.
Giorgio Manfredi (Marcello Pagliero) escapes to the roof before soldiers search for him in his apartment. Major Bergmann (Harry Feist) has photos of the resistance leader since the Spanish Civil War. Pina (Anna Magnani) lets Manfredi into Francesco's room and sends for Don Pietro (Aldo Fabrizi). Pina tells Manfredi that she is marrying Francesco and is pregnant. Manfredi asks Pietro to take money to the resistance fighters. Pietro makes a contact and is given the money in books. Pina goes with him and carries the books, confessing to him. Francesco (Francesco Grandjacquet) comes home and talks with Manfredi. Pina's son Marcello (Vito Annichiarico) returns with other boys from a courageous action. Francesco and Pina talk about how they got to know each other, and he speaks of the future with hope. Major Bergmann tells the police commissioner that Manfredi was seen, and they send Ingrid (Giovanna Galletti).
Pina warns Francesco that the Fascists are coming. Marcello tells Pietro that Romoletto has bombs in the attic. Soldiers search and make people stand in the street. Pietro goes in with a boy to see a dying man and hides a bomb and rifle in an old man's bed, telling him to pretend he is dying. Soldiers look in and leave them alone. In the street Francesco is arrested. Pina avoids a soldier molesting her, runs after him, and is shot. People shoot at the soldiers.
Manfredi meets his friend Marina (Maria Michi) and goes with Francesco to stay with her. Ingrid calls Marina. Manfredi asks about her dental medicine and does not trust her. Marina says she has had lovers to get things, and Manfredi says she missed the most important thing-love. Manfredi tells Francesco that they have "killed" Marina, who is also being visited by Pina's sister Lauretta.
Manfredi goes to see Pietro, who gives him a fake identification card. Manfredi meets an Austrian deserter (A. Tolnay). Pietro is taking them to a monastery; but they are arrested on the street as Francesco sees and escapes unnoticed. Major Bergmann gets a call and pays Ingrid for the information. Ingrid thanks Marina and gives her a nice coat. Ingrid says he will be released if he talks. Marina feels guilty and cries.
Pietro, Manfredi, and the Austrian are thrown into a room and decide not to talk. Major Bergmann questions Manfredi, who says he will die like other Italian patriots. Bergmann learns that the Austrian hanged himself. Captain Hartmann says that the Germans have been killing and hating. Manfredi has been beaten and must be revived. Bergmann offers immunity to the leaders of his party, and Manfredi spits at him. Manfredi is tortured again. Ingrid says she knew it would not be easy. Bergmann shows Manfredi to Pietro, who blesses him and curses them. Pietro prays for forgiveness. Marina is brought in, sees Manfredi, and faints; Ingrid takes back her coat. Pietro is taken to a field and, while boys outside a fence whistle, he is shot.
This realistic drama conveys the dreadful Fascism in
Italy during the war and the desperate resistance against it.
Pietro concludes that it is easy to die well, but it is difficult
to live well. Yet he showed that the truly spiritual are those
who work for justice.