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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English PCM Mono
  • Italian PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Both English and Italian versions
  • Archival television introduction by director Roberto Rossellini
  • New interview with critic Adriano Aprà
  • New interview with film historian Elena Dagrada about the different versions of Europe '51

Europe '51

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Roberto Rossellini
Starring: Ingrid Bergman
1952 | 114 Minutes | Licensor: Cinecitta

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $79.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #674
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: September 24, 2013
Review Date: October 15, 2013

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SYNOPSIS

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.

Forum members rate this film 8/10

 

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

The second film in Criterion’s box set release 3 Films by Roberto Rossellini Starring Ingrid Bergman, Europe ‘51 is presented on a dual-layer disc in its original aspect ratio of about 1.37:1 in a new high-definition 1080p/24hz transfer.

Like Stromboli Europe ‘51’s presentation is limited by the source materials. The digital transfer itself is strong, delivering a clean image free of digital anomalies and retaining the film’s grain structure. Depth looks excellent and contrast presents distinct grays and rich blacks, at least when the source allows.

As a whole the image is crisp and sharp, delivering some stunning close-ups and highly detailed long shots, but there are chunks of the film that fade out and soften, but it’s an obvious issue with the source and not anything to do with the transfer. The print also shows some heavy scratches, brutal tram lines, some frame jumps, and some staining. It’s heavy and very noticeable, but the digital transfer itself is strong enough that it’s still easy to overlook these issues.

The longer Italian version, Europa ‘51, is also included here and presented in high-definition. Its digital transfer also appears to be fine enough but it has more severe limitations due to the source, which is based on a 2000 reconstruction of the version that premiered at the Venice Film Festival. Contrast isn’t as strong and the image has a fairly darker look. The image is a tad bit fuzzier as well, and damage is still heavy in places. It’s easily the weakest presentation of the two but could probably have been far worse.

Flaws aside in either case, Criterion at least delivers transfers that offer fairly filmic looks.

6/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Each version gets a lossless linear PCM 1.0 mono track and neither is particularly special but both get the job done. Audio is fairly clear, despite an obvious edge to both, and damage sounds to have been cleaned up. In both cases they show their age but they’re clear enough.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Part of a larger 4-disc set, Europe ‘51 comes with a few supplements, and like the supplements found on the disc for Stromboli they focus primarily on Europe ‘51. And again like the disc featuring Stromboli we get two versions of the film: the English-language version and the Italian-language version, Europa ‘51. Though Rossellini, as I understand it, prefers the Italian version the English version is presented as the main feature on the disc while also receiving what is arguably the better transfer. Still, the Italian version presented here is actually not the version that was ultimately released in Italy and may itself not be Rossellini’s preferred cut. The version included here is actually a reconstruction of the version that premiered at the Venice Film Festival and includes a couple of scenes and pieces of dialogue not in the released Italian version, including a sequence where Bergman’s character goes to the movies.

The versions do differ in some surprising areas apart from some added or altered sequences found in the longer Italian version, though I still think the version’s main aim was to tone down what could be viewed as a strong political view, despite Rossellini’s attempt at looking at certain social issues from a number of angles, which a supplement on this disc gets into (ironically both critics from either side of the political aisle found plenty to dislike about the film.) The English version removes most of the comments or actions likely deemed too left leaning politically for certain audiences (the States particularly) and even outright dubs new dialogue over actors. The English version also makes Bergman’s character a little more saintly. Interestingly it also trims a few sequences that seem innocent enough (to me at least) like a sequence where Bergman goes searching for a doctor, so I assume some of these trims and cuts may also be related to pacing.

Getting into the remaining supplements we first get another introduction by Roberto Rossellini originally recorded for a French television broadcast of the film. Rossellini talks about how the film was intended as a sort of companion to The Flowers of St. Francis, this one portraying how he would have possibly been treated today, showing how perceptions can change over time. He then concludes the 5-minute segment recounting a story about a man who willfully turned himself into police for selling on the black market, and how this story influenced the latter part of the film. Usually these types of introductions can be a bit fluffy though no less fascinating to view, but this one is particularly insightful.

Adriano Aprá next talks about the film in an interview recorded in 2011 for Criterion. He talks about its relation to The Flowers of St. Francis and how it was a bit of a change from previous Rossellini films, looking more studio-polished in some areas like lighting and the fact that it’s more of a melodramatic “message” movie, which probably worked better for modern audiences. The interview runs 18-minutes.

The disc then concludes with a version comparison by Elena Dagrada, covering the various versions of the film. The 36-minute piece first starts by offering some context about the period the film was released in, the Cold War between the States and the Soviet Union, and how other European countries were sort of stuck in the middle. It covers the original premiere cut (which is the Italian version on here) and then the subsequent Italian cut, which removed a few scenes from the first cut, the International English cut (which is the English version here,) that cut out a good chunk of the controversial social aspects, and the truncated American cut. It gets into issues either side of the political aisle had about the film and Rossellini’s thoughts on those “issues.” It also does a side by side comparison of the various versions, showing how the editing differs or, in a lot of cases, the dialogue differed. A rather enlightening feature.

Again it’s a solid set of supplements, though they’re only a small selection of what’s in this wonderful package. Still, for Europe ‘51 alone the supplements offer a terrific primer.

7/10

CLOSING

The set as a whole is rather substantial but Criterion’s disc for Europe ‘51 is decent on its own with its own informative features and a strong enough digital transfer.


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