This Italian parabolic film is about events that take place in the Tuscany region of Italy during August of 1944. It is told from the point of view of Rosanna, a six-year-old girl.
When the citizens of San Marino learn that their houses have been mined by the Germans, they are told to take shelter in the cathedral. While most of them obey, a small group led by Galvano (Omero Antonutti), a worldly-wise peasant, head into the hills in search of the Americans who will liberate them. For the adults in this band of refugees, what happens to them is a nightmare of death and senseless destruction; for Rosanna (Sabina Vannucchi), it is an adventure to be savored and remembered.
Directors Paolo and Vittorio Taviani (Padre Padrone) are convinced that the war drew out people's best and worst qualities. Examples of both abound in this movie. The incidents are terrifying, whimsical, and tragic as San Marino's pilgrims learn the hard lesson that those who come promising a path to freedom the town's leaders, a collaborationist priest, Italian fascists are really wolves in sheep's clothing.
In the last analysis, neither religious faith, reason, nor rebellion help Rosanna survive "the night of the shooting stars." Her sense of wonder and a cock-eyed nursery rhyme get her through. For Galvano, grace comes in the blessing of an evening with a rich woman he has loved from afar since adolescence; for the other survivors, grace reaches them in the form of a cleansing and healing shower on the day they hear that the Allies have liberated Italy.
The Night of the Shooting Stars is a meaningful humanistic meditation for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear its ennobling messages.