Monday, March 18, 2013

Journey to Italy (1954)

“Are you sure you know when I'm happy?”
“No, ever since we left on this trip I'm not so sure. I realised for the first time that we... we're like strangers.”
“That's right. After eight years of marriage, it seems like we don't know anything about each other.”
“At home everything seemed so perfect, but now that we're away, alone...
Yes, it's a strange discovery to make.”

            Journey to Italy is the first Roberto Rossellini film I have seen. I had always wanted to see a Rossellini film especially his films with Ingrid Bergman. From all that I have heard of Rossellini about being one of the greatest directors ever I figured I could not go wrong with whatever film of his I chose to see first. From the moment Journey to Italy started I could see why Rossellini is given such acclaim.
            Katherine and Alex Joyce (Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders) are traveling to Italy from London to sell a villa she has inherited from her uncle. Katherine brings up that this is the first time in their eight years of marriage that they will be truly alone together. She also says that since the beginning of the trip they have been like two strangers. Alex replies that in the eight years they have been married they barely know each other. That night they stay at a hotel in Naples. Alex sees a group of friends and he and Katherine have dinner with them. Katherine notices the whole night Alex talks to one of the women in a flirtatious manner. The next morning she comments on him flirting but he tells her not to be jealous.
            They drive down to the villa for a few days. Katherine and Alex are shown around the villa by a young man who had befriended her uncle. The gorgeous scenery of Pompeii and Capri immediately takes hold of Katherine. After lunch Alex finds Katherine resting lazily in a chair on the balcony. She tells him when she was younger there was a man named Charles who loved her and used to write poetry for her. The way Katherine tells her story it sounds to Alex as if she is still in love with him and becomes a bit jealous. The next morning Katherine tells her husband that she is going to a museum and he meanly asks if she will be meeting up with her poet lover and he replies that maybe she is (she does not she really does just go to a museum). At the museum the guide keeps pointing out objects that relate to Katherine’s current situation with Alex. The look of uneasiness and distress is all over her face.

            The couple is invited to a party at a duke’s apartment. Katherine is seated with a group of gentlemen. She has a good time speaking to them. Alex sees her laughing with them from across the room and once again becomes jealous. When they get back to the villa Alex says it would be better for them if they got a divorce since they no longer love each other. Katherine agrees but not wholeheartedly. Alex tells her he is going down to Capri to visit his friends for a few days.
            While Alex is away Katherine realizes she does love him. Alex even figures the same about Katherine. He arrives back to Naples by ferry in the afternoon but he does not return to the villa right away. Katherine waits for him to come back all night. When he does return to the villa he does not even check on her. Katherine calls out to him saying she was in a deep sleep and did not know if it was he who was in the bathroom. The next day her uncle’s young friend insists they come to Pompeii with him where he has been part of an archaeological dig of the city. They arrive in time to see two archaeologists pour plaster into a pocket of earth where bodies have been found. The archaeologists have uncovered a couple who died together when Vesuvius exploded. Katherine becomes upset thinking of her marriage and how it has fallen apart.
            Driving back to the villa from Pompeii, Alex says that he will fly back to London to begin divorce proceedings. They are stopped when they reach the center of the city as a parade goes by. They get out of the car to watch since it will be some time before the car moves. The crowd moves and pulls Katherine away from Alex. She cries for him to come and save her before she becomes lost. Alex pulls her out of the crowd and when they are in each other’s arms they admit their pride has gotten in the way and they do love one another.
            My summary of the film is not good at all. Trust me when I say the story is excellent.
            To some the story of an older English couple whose marriage is falling apart may sound boring. What makes this story so much different than others like it is that it has no melodramatic moments. Katherine acts like a woman who I still in love with her husband but she does not get all dramatic and pleading. Alex acts like man full of pride but not once does he show if he tortured or not.  
            Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders were perfect together. Both of them were fantastic actors and I think because of that they had so much chemistry together (but as I always say Ingrid Bergman was so amazing she could have had chemistry with a stick). What I loved about them in this film is that all the emotions were on their faces never in their words. Never once did either of them voice aloud how they were feeling to each other when deep down they were struggling with their feelings. Their emotions were on their faces when they were not with each other making their scenes together a bit tense.
            In a review of the film someone brought up the point that the scenery and the atmosphere of Naples becomes a third character. Looking back on the film and the story the reviewer is correct. Right from the beginning of the film Katherine comments how their change of scenery has made them feel like strangers and throughout the story wherever they go their surroundings affects their moods and thoughts acting like a conscious.
            Roberto Rossellini made a visually stunning film. I loved every scene he filmed of the people and streets of Naples. Ingrid Bergman was made to be filmed in Rossellini’s style. She looked stunning in every scene. Her acting was perfect for the way Rossellini made these characters seem so real. The scene that makes the whole film worth watching is at the end when Alex and Katherine are in Pompeii. At this moment with his camera Rossellini captured a flood of emotion. He captured not only Katherine’s fragile emotion of love and loss but also of ours. We feel terrible seeing what we imagine to be a young couple who died in love with each other.
            I enjoyed every minutes of Journey to Italy. I enjoyed Rossellini’s direction and the acting by Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders. What I loved the most were the gorgeous scenes of Naples. I highly recommend seeing Journey to Italy. Hulu has it available to stream. Unfortunately it is not available on DVD in the United States.