Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Specialty Box Office: 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck' Primes HBO Pump, Russell Crowe's 'Water Diviner' Is Spotty Specialty Box Office: 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck' Primes HBO Pump, Russell Crowe's 'Water Diviner' Is Spotty Friday Box Office: 'Adaline' Bumps 'Furious' for a Day; 'Kurt Cobain' Big in 3 Theaters Friday Box Office: 'Adaline' Bumps 'Furious' for a Day; 'Kurt Cobain' Big in 3 Theaters Remembering Film Critic Richard Corliss (1944-2015) Remembering Film Critic Richard Corliss (1944-2015) Cannes: Denis Villeneuve Says Drug War Film 'Sicario' Is "Very Dark" and "Quite Violent" Cannes: Denis Villeneuve Says Drug War Film 'Sicario' Is "Very Dark" and "Quite Violent" How Do You Solve a Problem Like Erika? Universal Hires Husband to Write 'Fifty Shades Darker' How Do You Solve a Problem Like Erika? Universal Hires Husband to Write 'Fifty Shades Darker' 'Age of Ultron' Director Joss Whedon on Self-Doubt and Why It's His 'Rio Bravo' 'Age of Ultron' Director Joss Whedon on Self-Doubt and Why It's His 'Rio Bravo' Watch: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey, Patricia Arquette and Amy Schumer Hilariously Slam Hollywood Sexism (NSFW) Watch: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey, Patricia Arquette and Amy Schumer Hilariously Slam Hollywood Sexism (NSFW) CinemaCon: How Tom Cruise Stole the Paramount Show CinemaCon: How Tom Cruise Stole the Paramount Show Meet the Director of 'Tangerines,' the 2015 Dark Horse Oscar Nominee You Missed (Exclusive Video) Meet the Director of 'Tangerines,' the 2015 Dark Horse Oscar Nominee You Missed (Exclusive Video) LA Film Fest Unveils Horror Slate, More World Premieres, Zoe Cassavetes Film LA Film Fest Unveils Horror Slate, More World Premieres, Zoe Cassavetes Film Cannes: Directors' Fortnight Lines Up Vet Auteurs and American Indies Cannes: Directors' Fortnight Lines Up Vet Auteurs and American Indies Joe Wright's 'Pan' Gets Fall Release Date: Good News or Bad News? Joe Wright's 'Pan' Gets Fall Release Date: Good News or Bad News? Seeing Ryan Gosling's 'Lost River' Through Composer Johnny Jewel's Eyes (STREAM SOUNDTRACK) Seeing Ryan Gosling's 'Lost River' Through Composer Johnny Jewel's Eyes (STREAM SOUNDTRACK) 3 Women Genre Directors Get SF Film Society Fellowships 3 Women Genre Directors Get SF Film Society Fellowships Here's Why Jon Stewart Quit 'The Daily Show' Here's Why Jon Stewart Quit 'The Daily Show' Watch: From Tarantino to Cronenberg, Great Directors Talk the Art and Anxiety of Filmmaking Watch: From Tarantino to Cronenberg, Great Directors Talk the Art and Anxiety of Filmmaking Specialty Box Office: 'True Story' and 'Child 44' Flop as 'Ex Machina' Lures Audiences Specialty Box Office: 'True Story' and 'Child 44' Flop as 'Ex Machina' Lures Audiences 10 Films Booed at Cannes That Every Cinephile Should See 10 Films Booed at Cannes That Every Cinephile Should See 5 Things You Didn't Know About Lars von Trier, Who's Going Back to Work 5 Things You Didn't Know About Lars von Trier, Who's Going Back to Work 7 Things to Learn from 'Mad Men' Creator Matthew Weiner About Compelling Storytelling (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO) 7 Things to Learn from 'Mad Men' Creator Matthew Weiner About Compelling Storytelling (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO)

In Criterion's New Boxed Set, Bergman and Rossellini Make Love Among the Ruins

Photo of Matt Brennan By Matt Brennan | Thompson on Hollywood! September 25, 2013 at 12:51PM

In 1947, Ingrid Bergman dashed off an admiring letter to Italian director Roberto Rossellini. Inspired by his neorealist classics "Rome, Open City" and "Paisan," she suggested he might use her multilingual talents. "I am ready to come and make a film with you," she wrote, as though it were destined all along. To watch the fruit of their collaboration is to believe it was.
0
Ingrid Bergman in director Roberto Rossellini's "Stromboli" (1950)
Ingrid Bergman in director Roberto Rossellini's "Stromboli" (1950)

In 1947, Ingrid Bergman dashed off an admiring letter to Italian director Roberto Rossellini. Inspired by his neorealist classics "Rome, Open City" and "Paisan," she suggested he might use her multilingual talents. "I am ready to come and make a film with you," she wrote, as though it were destined all along. To watch the fruit of their collaboration is to believe it was.

Together, Bergman and Rossellini produced a tabloid affair, a marriage, three children, and a trilogy of boldly emotional, quasi-experimental films about love among the ruins. "Stromboli" (1950) "Europe '51" (1952), and "Voyage to Italy" (1954), available today in a lushly appointed boxed set from the Criterion Collection, bear the fingerprints of disaster: displaced persons' camps, memories of air raid sirens, abandoned palazzos; volcanic eruptions, catacombs, skulls; collapsing marriages, dead children, communal scorn. "For some time I matured this idea of treating, after the war dramas, this postwar tragedy," Rossellini noted in 1950, and he realized his ambition with aplomb. The films hang together as a brilliant, pained rendering of life, apres le deluge.

Yet the films are scenes from an artistic marriage, too, an energizing blend of the director's evolving realist aesthetic and his star's otherworldly elegance. Take "Stromboli," featuring Bergman as Karin, a Lithuanian refugee who ends up hitched to a beautiful Italian soldier (Mario Vitale) and accompanies him home to the titular volcanic isle. Rossellini captures the village's eroding, labyrinthine passages and annual tuna haul with the awe of a documentarian stumbling onto uncharted territory. Sunny and whitewashed, speckled with neglect, Stromboli is a place you can imagine wanting to return to, despite -- or perhaps because of -- the fact that time has passed it by.

Karin hates it immediately, and finds herself thwarted in every attempt to make a go of it, or to escape. "This is a ghost town," she complains. "I'm used to other things, better things." Bergman's eyes (downcast, flickering, narrowed, beseeching) convey every vagary of Karin's tormented inner life, searching for an exit that doesn't exist. For the woman whose personal history maps the distance from the Baltic to the Adriatic, through Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Italy, life on Stromboli is no seaside idyll but a sulfurous trap. Just "big black rocks, this desolation, that terror," she says.

A woman's struggle against the constraints of married life: this is the trilogy's organizing principle, and Bergman is well equipped for the task. Like Ilsa Lund in "Casablanca" (1942) or Alicia Huberman in "Notorious" (1946), the women of the Italian trilogy are, in effect, modeled after Bergman herself -- polyglot and cosmopolitan, impeccable adventuresses of global conflagration.

In "Europe '51," the woman is Irene, a Rome socialite who speaks of hosting a dinner party as though it were the Treaty of Potsdam, but fails to negotiate, or even to notice, her young son's despondence. When he dies suddenly, she seeks solace in helping the less fortunate, a milieu in which Rossellini discovers a series of arresting juxtapositions. Indeed, the idea of Irene standing in a luxurious fur coat as a corpse is dredged from the river, or dwarfed by the spinning, screeching, roaring turbines of a local factory, proves so inconceivable to her husband that he has her committed. "It's not always possible," her doctor comments, "to know beforehand what a person obsessed with an idea will do."

This article is related to: DVD / Blu-Ray, Criterion Collection, Genres, Classics, Drama, Headliners, Directors


E-Mail Updates