Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Journey to Italy

Rossellini, 1954, 84m

This is a film from Rossellini's middle period, after his acclaimed war trilogy and before he shifted to TV to give around a dozen faithfully historical films with a view to educating people. The female lead is Rossellini's then wife Ingrid Bergman and one may wonder how much is autobiographical. A wealthy English couple arrives in Naples to sell of some property inherited by them. They have been married for eight years and have reached a point of mutual boredom and resentfulness, finding little amusement with each other. We are taken through a series of incidents where their relationship is portrayed with a delicate brush.

Woven into this waning romance is a beautiful travelogue, as Catherine soaks in the fascinating sights and sounds of the place. We are introduced to the museum with it's awesome ancient sculpture, the sulphur springs whose vapors spread up to the horizon, the catacombs with thousands of skulls are displayed as a chilling monument to mortality, and finally the ruins of Vesuvius, which was wiped out in a moment as the volcano erupted two thousand years ago, much like an ancient Hiroshima. These exquisite journeys, showing us things through the disturbed mind of the heroine, is itself adequate reason to see the film.

It is as an authentic portrait of human relationships that the film excels. The marriage bond is particularly fragile, which is why it has cemented by strong legal and ethical boundaries. Peoples' feelings towards each other shift from moment to moment, influenced by even a word or a gesture. It is a film of magnificent refinement and delicacy, as Rossellini's ventures into the mysteries and wonders of ordinary life.

No comments: