3 FILMS BY ROBERTO ROSSELLINI STARRING INGRID BERGMAN
(1950-1954, Blu-ray released September 24, 2013 – MSRP $99.95)
“In the late 1940s, the incandescent Hollywood star Ingrid Bergman (Casablanca) found herself so moved by the revolutionary neorealist films of Roberto Rossellini (Rome Open City) that she sent the director a letter, introducing herself and offering her talents. The resulting collaboration produced a series of films that are works of both sociopolitical concern and metaphysical melodrama, each starring Bergman as a woman experiencing physical dislocation and psychic torment in postwar Italy. It also famously led to a scandalous affair and eventual marriage between filmmaker and star, and the focus on their personal lives in the press unfortunately overshadowed the extraordinary films they made together. Stromboli, Europe ’51, and Journey to Italy are intensely personal portraits that reveal the director at his most emotional and the glamorous actor at her most anguished, and that capture them and the world around them in transition.
The first collaboration between Roberto Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman is a devastating portrait of a woman’s existential crisis, set against the beautiful and forbidding backdrop of a volcanic island. After World War II, a Lithuanian refugee (Bergman) marries a simple Italian fisherman (Mario Vitale) she meets in a prisoner of war camp and accompanies him back to his isolated village on an island off the coast of Sicily. Cut off from the world, she finds herself crumbling emotionally, but she is destined for a dramatic epiphany. Balancing the director’s trademark neorealism (exemplified here in a remarkable depiction of the fishermen’s lives and work) with deeply felt melodrama, Stromboli is a revelation.
Ingrid Bergman plays a wealthy, self-absorbed socialite in Rome racked by guilt over the shocking death of her young son. As a way of dealing with her grief and finding meaning in her life, she decides to devote her time and money to the city’s poor and sick. Her newfound, single-minded activism leads to conflicts with her husband and questions about her sanity. The intense, often unfairly overlooked Europe ’51 was, according to Rossellini, a retelling of his own The Flowers of St. Francis from a female perspective. This unabashedly political but sensitively conducted investigation of modern sainthood was the director’s favorite of his films.
JOURNEY TO ITALY
Among the most influential dramatic works of the postwar era, Roberto Rossellini’s Journey to Italy charts the declining marriage of a couple (Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders) from England while on a trip in the countryside near Naples. More than just an anatomy of a relationship, Rossellini’s masterpiece is a heartrending work of emotion and spirituality. Considered a predecessor to the existentialist films of Michelangelo Antonioni; hailed as a groundbreaking modernist work by the legendary film journal Cahiers du cinéma; and named by director Martin Scorsese as one of his favorite films, Journey to Italy is a breathtaking cinematic benchmark.”