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aka - Viaggio In Italia
Italy 1953
Directed by
Roberto Rossellini
100 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Journey In Italy

Roberto Rossellini’s film initially appears to be a Cowardesque portrait of a bored and estranged English couple, not a little thanks to George Sanders clipped speech and supercilious manner, and part Southern Italian travelogue.  Gradually, however, the film gains in psychological credibility as the depth of attachment that lies beneath the apparent indifference and irritation the pair show to each other comes to the fore.

The slight story tells of Alex (Sanders) and Kathryn Joyce (Ingrid Bergman), a well-off English couple who have decided to drive through Italy to Naples, there to sell the villa left them by Alex’s uncle. Their marriage has essentially been one of social convenience and this is the first time that they have been alone together since their honeymoon.  They do little but annoy each other and when in Naples they go their separate ways. For Kathryn this means visiting the Museum of Archaeology and the Cave of the Cumaean Sibyl and becoming emotionally overwhelmed by the futility of life, a feeling amplified by traces of other lives that surround her, notably in the ruins of Pompeii. For Alex it means toying with picking up a lady of the night or having a fling with a young acquaintance, neither of which come to pass.

Although there is little in the way of plot, Rossellini carefully manoeuvered his actors into a suitable frame of mind by deliberately withholding from them any scripted dialogue and keeping them isolated within their fictional settings thus driving both actors to let their estranged characters eventually share an emotional vulnerability which rings true, the final scene recalling that of Marcel Carné's Les Enfants Du Paradis (1945).

FYI: The film was a commercial and critical failure. It suffered at the box office particularly in the USA because Rossellini and Bergman had created a scandal by beginning an affair while making Stromboli (1950) that ended both of their marriages whilst Rossellini lost the sympathy of the critics for abandoning the Neorealist style that had made his name (and, somewhat ironically, which had aroused Bergman's admiration for him).




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