Tuesday, July 19, 2011
La Paura (Fear)
Irene (Ingrid Bergman, wife of Rossellini when this film was made) is the owner of a pharmaceutical industry. Her husband is psychologically impaired due to war time imprisonment. Irene has been having an affair for a long time. She is wracked by guilt and wants to terminate the affair to devote herself to her husband and children. But then a the ex fiancee of her lover begins to black mail her. Her anxiety and terror of being discovered as well as her guilt sucks her into an intensifying vortex to the brink of self destruction.
This is a tightly chiseled psychological thriller and like most of Rossellini's film the real action takes place in somebody's head (one is reminded of Janet Leigh driving away with the stolen money in Psycho), and the environment serves only to mirror the disquieted mind. What stands out in this one is the electrifying black and white camera work which explores all the shades of grey and black to paint haunting and ethereal canvases of mist, light and darkness. He made several films on wife Ingrid in the fifties. The nightmare of war is becoming a receding memory and concerns of ordinary life are his subject: love and betrayal, desire, jealousy, parenting. He handles the films set in this period with the ease and instinct for perfection of a master. He achieves a sad and gentle lyricism in the camera work. He eyes the ordinary happenings of life and creates an enchanted universe. As Pauline Kael said, great movies are rarely perfect and it's easy to forgive him the rather absurd twist in the tail in La Paura. This is a gem of a woodcut.