672-675 3 Films by Rossellini Starring Ingrid Bergman

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manicsounds
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Re: 672-675 3 Films by Roberto Rossellini...

#101 Post by manicsounds » Sat Mar 08, 2014 8:36 pm

So what is the difference with the English/Italian versions of "Stromboli"? I watched the English version which is a mix of English and Italian, with Bergman's character having difficulty communicating because many villagers only speak Italian.

If the language barrier is removed, does the Italian version make a very different story?

Also, I thought the English version was 80 minutes, drastically cut, but on this disc is 106 minutes, yet retains the RKO logo for the credits.

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Re: 672-675 3 Films by Roberto Rossellini...

#102 Post by tag gallagher » Sun Mar 09, 2014 10:54 am

There are three editions:
1) The unauthorized RKO US release which is c. 81 minutes, mutilates the film, adds a voice over and an ending.

2) The international edition, in English, Rossellini's cut, which played at Venice and was distributed in Europe, has RKO logo, c. 105 minutes. Partly in direct sound.

3) The Italian edition, dubbed in Italian for Italians (as always in Italy with every film: never subtitles!), Rossellini's cut and Rossellini's revisions, c. 97 minutes.

The latter two are in the Criterion box.

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Re: 672-675 3 Films by Roberto Rossellini...

#103 Post by manicsounds » Sun Mar 09, 2014 11:01 pm

Thanks Mr Gallagher,
So what about the difference in story due to language? With the International version, Karin has a hard time communicating with the locals because of the language barrier, but what happens in the Italian cut? (I know, I should just watch it already, right?)

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Re: 672-675 3 Films by Roberto Rossellini...

#104 Post by tag gallagher » Sun Mar 09, 2014 11:05 pm

Yes, please watch both editions and report back to us! Thanks.

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Re: 672-675 3 Films by Roberto Rossellini...

#105 Post by manicsounds » Mon Mar 10, 2014 8:15 am

So, watched parts of the Italian version, and I guess it doesn't make much difference to the story. The International version dialogue scenes when the husband says some Italian dialogue and Karin responds in English with "I don't understand", the Italian version, she responds with "I don't know what you mean" as in she i confused by why he would ask such a thing. Or the dialogue is tweaked a bit so it seems like everyone is speaking the same language with no barrier. Even in the Argentina Visa scene in the Italian version they say she is "Lithuanian, but can speak Italian".

Although there is one scene that doesn't seem to work: When the ladies come to front door while Karin is painting, she asks them to come inside, in which they just stand there. After failing to communicate, she asks the neighboring man to tell them translate in Italian to come inside.

In the Italian version, she does the same, and then asks the neighboring man to tell the ladies to come inside. It makes Karin's character a bit more stuck up in that one scene, by asking someone else, "Hey, tell these ladies what I just said to them for me."

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Re: 672-675 3 Films by Roberto Rossellini...

#106 Post by tag gallagher » Mon Mar 10, 2014 9:27 am

Yeah, thanks. The problem for me is that if Karin can speak Italian so well, then it's less likely that she would so blindly outrage local morality. I mean, I can't imagine an actual Italian woman doing the things Karin does.

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Re: 672-675 3 Films by Roberto Rossellini...

#107 Post by manicsounds » Mon May 05, 2014 10:21 pm

tag gallagher wrote:Yeah, thanks. The problem for me is that if Karin can speak Italian so well, then it's less likely that she would so blindly outrage local morality. I mean, I can't imagine an actual Italian woman doing the things Karin does.
That's a problem when a multilingual movie is dubbed into one language. (James Quandt's video essay has a section about the language misunderstandings.) The worst example I've seen is the Japanese dub of "Lost In Translation" in which everyone speaks Japanese, yet for some reason Bill Murray even though speaking Japanese can't understand what anyone is saying. (A way it could have been fixed, dub Bill and Scarlett to Japanese, and have all the Japanese people around them speak English!)

Anyway, almost finished with the boxset (just the bonus disc to go, so yes I did see your video essay Mr Gallagher, excellent), and these 3 films are quite the definitions of art imitating life / life imitating art with Rossellini and Bergman's relationship closely being related to the relationships of the characters on screen. Excellent extras, probably has the most comprehensive extras I've seen recently. (Although no trailers?)

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Re: 672-675 3 Films by Roberto Rossellini...

#108 Post by The Fanciful Norwegian » Tue May 06, 2014 12:11 am

The worst example I've seen is the Japanese dub of "Lost In Translation" in which everyone speaks Japanese, yet for some reason Bill Murray even though speaking Japanese can't understand what anyone is saying. (A way it could have been fixed, dub Bill and Scarlett to Japanese, and have all the Japanese people around them speak English!)
I've seen things like this in Mandarin dubs, including characters "interpreting" originally Mandarin dialogue into dubbed Mandarin for the benefit of characters also speaking dubbed Mandarin. I asked a Chinese friend about it and he said that the Chinese viewer simply imagines the foreign characters are really speaking English (or Japanese or Russian or whatever)—only the audience hears their dialogue in Mandarin, not the characters in the film. This all sounds pretty odd to me, but I suspect it's a common rationalization in dubbing-friendly countries.

(Of course this can really wreak havoc when the dialogue hinges on specific peculiarities of the original language. How did they handle the "rip my stocking" bit in the Japanese dub?)

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Re: 672-675 3 Films by Roberto Rossellini...

#109 Post by manicsounds » Tue May 06, 2014 10:25 am

The Fanciful Norwegian wrote:(How did they handle the "rip my stocking" bit in the Japanese dub?)
She tells him "Stocking wo 'rippu' shite", she uses the English word "rip" instead of the Japanese word "Yabuite", to which Bob has no idea what that word means. Then she shows him, so he says (my translation) "Why didn't you just say 'yabuite'?"

Anyway, lets get this thread back to Rossellini/Bergman.
What are the chances of their collaboration of "Joan of Arc" to be released by Criterion? Possibly with the 1948 Victor Fleming directed version also starring Ingrid Bergman?

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Re: 672-675 3 Films by Roberto Rossellini...

#110 Post by MichaelB » Fri Jul 04, 2014 7:09 am

The Cinema Ritrovato Awards for 2014 have just been announced, including:
BEST BLU-RAY BOX SET: 3 FILMS BY ROBERTO ROSSELLINI STARRING INGRID BERGMAN
(Stromboli, Europe '51, Journey to Italy, 1950-1954) – Criterion

A superb, definitive edition of three very personal masterworks, with a good many critical, biographical, and historical supplements by many of the best Rossellini scholars and critics, including Adriano Aprà, Richard Brody, Fred Camper, Elena Dagrada, Tag Gallagher, Dina Iordanova, Laura Mulvey, James Quandt, and Paul Thomas, not to mention pertinent contributions by Guy Maddin, Martin Scorsese, and both Rossellini and Bergman and many family members.
(Full press release and other winners here)

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Re: 672-675 3 Films by Roberto Rossellini...

#111 Post by hill89 » Mon Nov 17, 2014 4:06 pm

I noticed that this comes with two version of Stromboli and Europa '51. I'm thinking about blind buying this set and was curious if there is an "official" version of the two films that is seen as the definitive cut or if it matters. I know they're in different languages as well, so which are they supposed to be watched in?

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Re: 672-675 3 Films by Roberto Rossellini...

#112 Post by knives » Mon Nov 17, 2014 5:10 pm

There's been a lot of discussion in this very thread, but in short the international/ English version of Stromboli and Europa '51.

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Re: 672-675 3 Films by Roberto Rossellini...

#113 Post by Drucker » Mon Nov 17, 2014 5:10 pm

hill89 wrote:I noticed that this comes with two version of Stromboli and Europa '51. I'm thinking about blind buying this set and was curious if there is an "official" version of the two films that is seen as the definitive cut or if it matters. I know they're in different languages as well, so which are they supposed to be watched in?
Tag Gallagher confirms here that the English-language versions are the official ones.

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Re: 672-675 3 Films by Roberto Rossellini...

#114 Post by hill89 » Mon Nov 17, 2014 5:28 pm

knives wrote:There's been a lot of discussion in this very thread, but in short the international/ English version of Stromboli and Europa '51.
Wow, and on this very page too. I feel like an idiot. Thanks though.

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Journey to Italy (Roberto Rossellini, 1954)

#115 Post by swo17 » Mon May 09, 2016 11:39 am

DISCUSSION ENDS MONDAY, May 23rd

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I encourage members to submit questions, either those designed to elicit discussion and point out interesting things to keep an eye on, or just something you want answered. This will be extremely helpful in getting discussion started. Starting is always the hardest part, all the more so if it's unguided. Questions can be submitted to me via PM.

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Re: Journey to Italy (Roberto Rossellini, 1954)

#116 Post by Sloper » Mon May 09, 2016 2:31 pm

A few questions:

The film doesn’t begin with a loving couple whose relationship we see gradually disintegrating. Katherine and Alex acknowledge quite openly, more or less from the start, that being alone together in Italy has exposed their alienation from each other. Why does Rossellini tell the story in this way? Why, throughout the film, do the problems in this marriage tend to be spelt out in straightforward terms, rather than first being shown through subtle nuances of tone, gesture and so on? And does the film also deepen our understanding of these problems through subtle nuances of tone, gesture and so on, that suggest there is more going on than is being acknowledged in the dialogue?

What exactly are the problems in this marriage? Why, after eight years together, are these two people suddenly moved to confront these problems? To what extent have they been ignorant of them before now, and to what extent has either character been bottling up their awareness of these issues? What is it about Italy – the place, the people, the culture, the history, and the specific circumstance of the sale of Uncle Homer’s house – that throws into relief the flaws of this marriage?

How do the acting styles of Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders complement and/or clash with each other? How does each of them approach and interpret their role, and in what ways are we prompted to connect with or ‘relate to’ each character?

Do you find the ending convincing and/or effective? What happens here, and why does it happen? What do Katherine and Alex say to each other, and what does this final exchange suggest about their relationship and its chances for the future? What is the significance of the final shot?

Katherine’s story about the young poet she used to know seems to draw on Gretta’s story about Michael Furey in James Joyce’s ‘The Dead’, and of course the central couple in this film are named ‘Joyce’. What is the relationship between this film and Joyce’s story?

This film also bears a strong resemblance, in some ways, to Antonioni’s L’avventura and La notte. To what extent are the two directors exploring the same ‘relationship problems’, and to what extent are their concerns significantly different? In particular, what are the similarities and differences between the endings of Antonioni’s films and that of Rossellini’s?

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Re: Journey to Italy (Roberto Rossellini, 1954)

#117 Post by ando » Tue May 10, 2016 2:30 am

Sloper wrote: What exactly are the problems in this marriage?
I'm willing to wager a bet that the genesis of this film began with two guests that Rossellini had over who had never eaten spaghetti - and certainly never together. They don't even laugh at their own ineptitude! And, regrettably, neither do their hosts. But Rossellini seemed to be aiming at a kind of sterile postcard portrait that suddenly comes to life in the end. Wouldn't it have been perfect if Bergman was suddenly trampled to death in the stampede during the adoration/final crowd scene? It would have been exactly what the narrative was headed toward.

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Re: Journey to Italy (Roberto Rossellini, 1954)

#118 Post by ellipsis7 » Tue May 10, 2016 2:43 am

JOURNEY TO ITALY is based loosely on James Joyce's story 'The Dead' (see John Huston's swansong, an adaptaion of the same), hence the main characters' surname, and a marriage frozen (as in death) by the persistent memory of the wife's dead former lover... No script survives, if there ever was one, only a few notes on the narrative by Rossellini...

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Re: Journey to Italy (Roberto Rossellini, 1954)

#119 Post by ando » Tue May 10, 2016 3:12 am

I was just about to add that Bergman's character spends most of the film denying death; perplexed by Italians honoring the dead, revulsion at the catacombs, the ending of her own marriage. She can't put together that death is absolutely essential for life. So her life never resussitates. Neither does (nor will) her husbands'. So I suppose the ending is apt. And the spaghetti moment rings even more true.

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Re: Journey to Italy (Roberto Rossellini, 1954)

#120 Post by Drucker » Tue May 10, 2016 11:47 am

Sloper wrote:A few questions:

The film doesn’t begin with a loving couple whose relationship we see gradually disintegrating. Katherine and Alex acknowledge quite openly, more or less from the start, that being alone together in Italy has exposed their alienation from each other. Why does Rossellini tell the story in this way? Why, throughout the film, do the problems in this marriage tend to be spelt out in straightforward terms, rather than first being shown through subtle nuances of tone, gesture and so on? And does the film also deepen our understanding of these problems through subtle nuances of tone, gesture and so on, that suggest there is more going on than is being acknowledged in the dialogue?
Sloper, I actually sort of disagree with you about the subtlety of their marriage's issues. Sure, they bicker in the film the way every couple does, but as I'm trying to make sense of the film after watching it last night, what strikes me is how introspective it is. The most effective moments of marital strife occurred in isolation, with a lot of subtlety. Unlike, say, L'Avventura and perhaps Red Desert the focus of the film isn't as focused on the internal conflict and isolation a character feels. There are many, many moments in Journey To Italy where the characters explicitly lay out their emotions. But those aren't the most emotionally heavy shots. To use a dull cliche, it's almost as if what doesn't happen illustrates the isolation and the internal conflict best of all. Alex's inability to actually follow-through on infidelity and the torture Katherine seems to experience while seeing the happiness of other couples and especially others with children, illustrates their isolation.

There are few moments we are shown where they are bickering like a couple. In addition to their world-views and general demeanor leading to conflict between the two, it is not until the last moments of the film where they realize they might not be as alone as they feel they are. Throughout, they are both either searching for or envious of others for something they don't have. Rossellini does a superb job of getting us to empathize with characters who seem to feel they are all alone in the world, and think everyone else "has it figured out." Those little moments of isolation are far more effective for me than the straight-forward bickering that occurs.
What exactly are the problems in this marriage? Why, after eight years together, are these two people suddenly moved to confront these problems? To what extent have they been ignorant of them before now, and to what extent has either character been bottling up their awareness of these issues? What is it about Italy – the place, the people, the culture, the history, and the specific circumstance of the sale of Uncle Homer’s house – that throws into relief the flaws of this marriage?
To not show the flashbacks, to not show the disintegration over time, and never giving us a peek of what their honeymoon phase looked like, we are left with two characters who are fully unable to communicate with one another. Everything they do bothers the other. Katherine is wasting her time, too sensitive, and cannot take a joke, while Alex is a brute, and constantly illustrates that he isn't able to be emotionally supportive (not just for Katherine, for any of the women he encounters). The simple answer would be because of Alex's comments early on: "This is the first time in eight years of marriage we are totally alone," and maybe the reality of that forces them to confront these issues. It's Bergman's trips to museums and ruins and Alex's attempts to seduce women that clearly have the heaviest effect on each of them in the film. There's a constant "can't stand to be with him/can't stand to be without him" vibe happening throughout.
Do you find the ending convincing and/or effective? What happens here, and why does it happen? What do Katherine and Alex say to each other, and what does this final exchange suggest about their relationship and its chances for the future? What is the significance of the final shot?
At first I really didn't believe in the ending. But there are two pivotal moments which I think bleed into one another and makes me realize that their reconciliation is genuine and real.

The first is the unveiling of the bodies at Pompeii, causing Katherine to break down. The whole film, as I mentioned, she is watching every other couple in the world and comparing it to her own relationship. Other people are happy, and she is not. And what finally pushes her over the edge is seeing the skeletons of two people who died an eternity ago. What is so wrong with her that she cannot make her marriage work? This leads to Katherine beginning to try to soften up on Alex, before another rude comment from Alex changes her mind.

Clearly what has happened is that slowly, over time, the couple has drifted apart. I think that's a safe assumption. But they've been drifting apart at their own pace, in a way neither of them can account for or control. In that final moment, however, as they encounter the parade, they are forcibly separated. That final parade amplifies the reality Katherine is experiencing and horrifies her. It's one thing to have Alex near and be mad at him. It's another thing to truly be taken from him. She doesn't know why, and neither does Alex...but they need each other. "Why do we keep doing this to each other?" Alex asks. In the final moment, they are forcibly separated, and while they have not fixed the issues they have as a couple, they know that truly being apart isn't the right answer either. They need each other, and therefore, perhaps that is love. And maybe Katherine's mind can be at ease with that being enough.
Last edited by Drucker on Tue May 10, 2016 11:58 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Journey to Italy (Roberto Rossellini, 1954)

#121 Post by Newsnayr » Tue May 10, 2016 11:57 am

I saw this in September of last year, when my cinephilia was still starting, but I remember that I was just floored by this film. With regards to the ending, it may be because of my religion but I was throughly convinced; Rossellini's direction and Bergman's and Sanders' acting make the seemingly ordinary event seem mystifying and monumentally important.

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Re: Journey to Italy (Roberto Rossellini, 1954)

#122 Post by Sloper » Sat May 14, 2016 8:20 am

Drucker wrote:Sloper, I actually sort of disagree with you about the subtlety of their marriage's issues. Sure, they bicker in the film the way every couple does, but as I'm trying to make sense of the film after watching it last night, what strikes me is how introspective it is. The most effective moments of marital strife occurred in isolation, with a lot of subtlety. Unlike, say, L'Avventura and perhaps Red Desert the focus of the film isn't as focused on the internal conflict and isolation a character feels. There are many, many moments in Journey To Italy where the characters explicitly lay out their emotions. But those aren't the most emotionally heavy shots. To use a dull cliche, it's almost as if what doesn't happen illustrates the isolation and the internal conflict best of all. Alex's inability to actually follow-through on infidelity and the torture Katherine seems to experience while seeing the happiness of other couples and especially others with children, illustrates their isolation.
No, you’re absolutely right. As you mention, there are those moments when they seem to spell out what is wrong: this is the first time they are alone together, they don’t really know each other, he thinks she is silly and romantic, she thinks he is cynical and cruel... But the real problems seem to manifest themselves at other times, and seem to be much harder to pin down. I don’t like this film as much as I feel I ought to, and I think that might be because, in the end, it reverts to trite explanations and solutions for this couple’s marital woes, rather than following through on the truly disturbing implications of its subtler passages. Maybe I just want Rossellini to be Antonioni; maybe I’m just a miserable git.
Drucker wrote:To not show the flashbacks, to not show the disintegration over time, and never giving us a peek of what their honeymoon phase looked like, we are left with two characters who are fully unable to communicate with one another. Everything they do bothers the other. Katherine is wasting her time, too sensitive, and cannot take a joke, while Alex is a brute, and constantly illustrates that he isn't able to be emotionally supportive (not just for Katherine, for any of the women he encounters). The simple answer would be because of Alex's comments early on: "This is the first time in eight years of marriage we are totally alone," and maybe the reality of that forces them to confront these issues. It's Bergman's trips to museums and ruins and Alex's attempts to seduce women that clearly have the heaviest effect on each of them in the film. There's a constant "can't stand to be with him/can't stand to be without him" vibe happening throughout.
...
Clearly what has happened is that slowly, over time, the couple has drifted apart. I think that's a safe assumption. But they've been drifting apart at their own pace, in a way neither of them can account for or control. In that final moment, however, as they encounter the parade, they are forcibly separated. That final parade amplifies the reality Katherine is experiencing and horrifies her. It's one thing to have Alex near and be mad at him. It's another thing to truly be taken from him. She doesn't know why, and neither does Alex...but they need each other. "Why do we keep doing this to each other?" Alex asks. In the final moment, they are forcibly separated, and while they have not fixed the issues they have as a couple, they know that truly being apart isn't the right answer either. They need each other, and therefore, perhaps that is love. And maybe Katherine's mind can be at ease with that being enough.
This seems to me like a very accurate and eloquent description of what the film suggests about this marriage, at least on one level; but I think the bits I’ve underlined sort of pull against the rest of what you’re saying, and hark back to your other point about the subtler elements in the film.

When it comes to the ‘can’t stand him/her, can’t stand to be without him/her’ and ‘they need each other’ business, I just can’t help thinking these are melodramatic clichés. The same goes for that moment when Judy tells Alex he’s finding it hard to detach from his wife because he really does love her and care about her, or the moments when Katherine worries aloud about whether Alex needs the car or how he’s coping with the food, or when the film tries to make us want these two to communicate with each other and make up (most obviously when Alex returns from Capri and Katherine pretends to have been sleeping peacefully). And the same goes most of all for the ending, when a ‘miracle’ forces them to plunge into this great mass of ‘child-like’ humanity (‘children are happy’, says Katherine; no they bloody aren’t), forces Alex to show he cares, and forces the couple to come together in an embrace that, God willing, we trust will endure for many years to come. I don’t like it.

‘Why do we torment each other?’ Because you don’t really love each other and you don’t really want to be together. ‘Maybe we get hurt too easily.’ Alex says this, and he’s almost invariably the hurtful one, so this is essentially Katherine’s complete prick of a husband telling her to stop being so sensitive when he mocks her deepest sentiments, or when he responds to her attempt to connect with him (over her memory of Charles Lewington) with obnoxious, scathing sarcasm. Why ‘we get hurt’? Is the story about Charles really that hurtful to him? And then, when she asks him to say that he loves her, he responds: ‘If I do, will you promise not to take advantage of me?’ What? Take advantage of you? I guess this is partly a joke, but it seems to tap right into one of the big problems here: if he says he loves her, he might have to follow up on this by behaving as though he means it, and it’s hard to imagine Alex doing anything of the kind. I’d go further and say that it’s absolutely impossible to imagine these two people ever experiencing, or ever having experienced, any real joy together. I find it hard to picture the eight preceding years of marriage where ‘everything seemed perfect’, and indeed from a later conversation we find out that she has always been hurt by his ridicule, and he has always despised her dramatic and romantic tendencies. So things have never actually seemed perfect to either of them, have they?

Claudia and Sandro, in L’avventura, have a very similar ‘tell me you love me’ exchange, and the problem is very similar too: Sandro doesn’t really want the kind of relationship Claudia is looking for, and maybe isn’t capable of ‘love’ as she uses that term. That film ends
SpoilerShow
in a similar way too, but in that case it’s clear that the reconciliation is as chilling and bleak as it is genuinely moving; there’s an instinctive forgiveness, a need for intimacy, a willingness to compromise, a kind of honesty, but there’s also a deep alienation and pain for which there is no cure. Both sides of this equation seem equally authentic and ‘recognisable’.
In Rossellini’s film, it may be that everything I’ve complained about above is meant to be inferred by the viewer, and perhaps this is what makes the ending so rich and powerful for some people. But every time I watch it, the tone strikes me as very earnest and warm-hearted. It’s not that I always recoil from earnest, warm-hearted happy endings; it’s just that this one seems like a betrayal of what was really going on in the film, and what it was really saying about this relationship. I guess ando was sort of joking about Katherine getting trampled to death, but I honestly would have been less surprised if she had been carried away (alive) by the crowd and Alex had tried, but failed, to catch up with her – put like that it still sounds tritely symbolic, but I think it would have been more honest.
ando wrote:Bergman's character spends most of the film denying death; perplexed by Italians honoring the dead, revulsion at the catacombs, the ending of her own marriage. She can't put together that death is absolutely essential for life. So her life never resussitates. Neither does (nor will) her husbands'.
Drucker wrote:The whole film, as I mentioned, she is watching every other couple in the world and comparing it to her own relationship. Other people are happy, and she is not. And what finally pushes her over the edge is seeing the skeletons of two people who died an eternity ago. What is so wrong with her that she cannot make her marriage work? This leads to Katherine beginning to try to soften up on Alex, before another rude comment from Alex changes her mind.
The uncovering of the plaster-cast bodies at Pompeii is a wonderful scene, and it’s so fascinating that this is the real crisis point for Katherine. I agree that what she sees here is ‘yet another happy couple’, united to the point of death – and beyond – and that this contrasts painfully with the rupturing of her own marriage. I think it’s also more complex than that, and here we have to go back to near the start of the film, to the story about Charles Lewington.

Katherine finds herself remembering this young poet’s lines about ‘Temple of the spirit, no longer bodies, but pure ascetic images, compared to which mere thought seems flesh, heavy, dim’. Based on Lewington’s cough, Alex writes him off as a ‘fool’, and also makes a disparaging remark about the quality of his poetry. Katherine’s visit to the museum is in part a response to and rebellion against this: she wants to see the statues Lewington was apparently referring to in his poem, and re-affirm her sense of that poem’s truth and profundity. When she reports back to Alex after this pilgrimage, she says that the statues seemed alive, ‘like the men of today’; she agrees with Alex when he remarks that they turned out not to be ‘ascetic images’ after all, and this is a rare moment when the two of them seem to be on the verge of getting along well. Then Katherine says that she was struck by the lack of modesty in these statues: ‘There is no attempt to...’ But she’s interrupted by Burton before she can finish this thought. Presumably she was about to say something to the effect that the sensuality of these statues – the drunkenness, the sexuality, the violence – was on full display, with no sense that it should be concealed, and there’s a nice irony in the fact that the film conceals and censors this statement. But it also seems in character for Katherine not to be too explicit on this point. In fact, the account she gives here doesn’t quite seem to do justice to what we saw in the preceding sequence.

Those roving shots of the statues are astonishing, and yes, they seem to both ‘bring the statues to life’ and emphasise their ‘immodesty’. But the experience is much more exciting and terrifying than Katherine suggests in the next scene. She seems to connect with these works of art, and with the real human beings they were modelled upon, in a way that profoundly de-stabilises her. She is enchanted by Lewington’s poem because it appeals to her ‘romantic’ nature, suggesting as it does some idealised, transcendent realm of existence where we are freed from material constraints, and even from the limitations of ‘mere thought’. In a sense, as Alex suggests, the statues themselves debunk these high-flown ideas, because they are still bodies, still seem to be engaged in thinking and feeling and acting, and (with some help from the creepy guide) prompt Katherine to be conscious of her own body, mirrored in the ‘more mature woman’ pictured by one of the sculptures.

However, this visit does much more than just bring Katherine down to earth. Renzo Rossellini’s music, which I think makes its first appearance here, anticipates what Giovanni Fusco would later do in the island scenes in L’avventura, evoking a sense of some vague, mysterious past – it’s like distant music from ancient Rome, with a sort of menacing, disorienting, Bacchic undertone. The statues are not only familiar and ‘present’, they also impose on Katherine an intimacy with something alien, an uncanny consciousness of forces that are part of her, and yet that she has never really been in touch with. So in another sense, these statues do affirm what Lewington’s poem suggests: the people they represent are no longer bodies, but pure images, emblems of life’s capacity to extend beyond death, beyond flesh, and even beyond thought; there is more to them than the materials they are made of, and these materials do become ‘temples of the spirit’, if not very ‘ascetic’ ones. (Apparently ‘ascetic’ is distantly descended from a word meaning ‘exercise’ or ‘training’, which the film may be playing on here.) Katherine, almost in deference to Alex, and as a way of reconciling with him, simply says that the visit brought her down to earth, perhaps because her real feelings are hard to put into words, and would likely be ridiculed by her husband.

However, she thinks of the lines from the poem again when she visits the cave of the Cumaean Sibyl. She refuses to visit the room where lovers would ask the Sibyl to tell their fortunes. Again, the sense of a persistent voice from the past terrifies her, precisely because it is not just a ‘persistence of the body’ into the present day, but rather a sign that something that is ‘no longer a body’ but connected to corporeality (foretelling lovers’ futures) might exist beyond life, and beyond her own present into the future. She’s worried about the future of her marriage, of course, but there’s also something fundamentally disturbing about this ‘spiritual’ existence she glimpses, which is not the cleansed, idealised image she had been chasing, but something that remains connected to what the body and its passions once were even though it is ‘no longer a body’.

There’s another creepy guide on this tour, and like the one in the museum he forces Katherine into an awareness of her own body, this time in an even creepier manner. He pins her arms back against the holes in the rock to show how the Saracens tied up their prisoners, and as he stands in front of her he says, ‘This is how they would have tied a beautiful woman like you’. He’s hinting that they would have raped her, and is occupying the position of the rapist himself. Katherine, as in the museum sequence, responds by looking mildly offended and dismissive, and then comments, ‘Silly old fool – all men are alike’, as she goes up to the temple of Apollo and looks out at Capri, where Alex is busy trying and failing to womanise his troubles away. There are probably several ways of reading this sequence, but I think it’s striking that Katherine is less disturbed by the guide’s rather impotent gesture of aggressive male sexuality (easy to see why she makes the connection with Alex) than she is by the memory of Lewington’s poem coupled with the prospect of encountering the prophetic Sibyl. The Sibyl, condemned to live forever but decay like any other mortal, famously became ‘no longer a body’, and again suggests a re-framing of the ‘pure ascetic image’ as something terrifying. The Sibyl’s voice (which eventually was all that remained of her) screams out of the past to foretell, not a shining paradise of spiritual perfection, but the eternal alienation of which the Joyces’ marriage’s present state is only a snapshot.

Later, when Katherine visits the catacombs with Natalia, she is unable to share the latter’s sense of comfort in communing with the dead through their physical remains, or with a particular person at one remove, through the bones of someone else. Yet again, in an obvious sense what she sees here is the opposite of Lewington’s ‘temple of the spirit’: here is a temple of the skeleton, constructed out of endless rows of identical skulls. But I think what frightens her is the sense that there are more than just skeletons in this place. When she actually makes contact with this other plane of existence, it fuels all her existing anxieties, and she recoils from it.

The unearthing of the Pompeiian couple represents the climax to this sequence of epiphanies. There are a couple of important details I would single out here: first, although Burton seems to view this spectacle as an emblem of the lovers’ union until the moment of death (‘They may have found death like this together’), what we actually see is not two people embracing, but two people separated (presumably in the sudden pain and terror of trying and failing to escape death), intact as individuals but disintegrated as a couple, staring upwards into oblivion rather than at each other, and frozen that way forever. I think this is the Sibyl’s prophecy about her marriage that Katherine was trying to avoid.

Secondly, it’s interesting that Katherine breaks down in tears and runs away at the very moment when one of the archaeologists is brushing the dirt away from the nether regions of one figure – this clearly echoes those confrontations with sexuality in the museum and the caves. I said earlier that this kind of down-to-earth sensuality is associated with Alex, and at first glance we might think that this is what the romantic Katherine recoils from; but she recoils at least as much from the new form in which her romantic ideas are now manifested, and again her terror prompts her to try (unsuccessfully, for now) to reconcile with her husband.

Maybe this is just my Antonioni fandom rearing its head again, but I can’t help feeling that Katherine’s existential crisis anticipates that of Giuliana in Red Desert, just as Giuliana’s anxieties over her son in that film echo and amplify those of Irene in Europa 51. It’s as if Katherine’s sense of the boundaries between things, and between states of being, is slipping away. Alex is like the men in Antonioni’s films who, according to Anna’s last words in L’avventura, ‘vilify (or dirty – I think the word is sporca) everything’; but he’s also like them in that he instinctively reveals to his significant other a version of the less corporeal reality she’s been seeking, but one that is sort of inflected with that corporeality she’s been trying to escape. By definition, it’s a hard concept to put into words, but these sequences (and others) in Rossellini’s film capture it beautifully. The theme carries forward into the ending, when a spiritual miracle heals people’s bodies, and the crowd’s transcendent faith causes Katherine and Alex to be reunited in a physical embrace. Their embrace is quite unlike the positions of the couple at Pompeii, though – which is another reason it feels false to me.

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Drucker
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Re: Journey to Italy (Roberto Rossellini, 1954)

#123 Post by Drucker » Sat May 14, 2016 7:47 pm

Well said as usual Sloper, and I agree that the film didn't truly connect with me. Stromboli was the stand-out in the box set for me, and the miracle in its ending felt far more believable and was better done than this one. Perhaps Rossellini was too close the material to treat it the way you describe, the way it deserves to be treated: with devastating loneliness.

If I had to come up with a defense of the film, there's a certain shock to the ending of the films in this box set. I've only watched the other two films once, but the pregnancy in Stromboli and the "they're coming to take her away"-type ending of Europa 51 come somewhat shockingly. While they fit the plot of the film, there is still a surprise that the ending is actually happening. Perhaps there is something to be said about letting nature take its course. Nature dictates the pregnancy, nature transforms her personality in Europa 51, and maybe nature is trying to show them the folly of their emotions. There's an interesting complexity at work here: perhaps nobody knows how to "do" marriage well, and others get on. The needing each other is the important part, and they apparently have that. And of course, this is shocking following a film about two people and their dissolving marriage.
Last edited by Drucker on Tue May 17, 2016 1:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: Journey to Italy (Roberto Rossellini, 1954)

#124 Post by matrixschmatrix » Sat May 14, 2016 9:57 pm

I feel like the root of the discord in the marriage, and indeed of the individual problems that both Katherine and Alex seem to have nearly all the time, is that they both carry the (very English) air of being faintly disgusted by the sort of material reality of being alive- by bodies and touching and strong, genuine emotion, and everything else. Hence Katherine's strong attraction to a poem about pure aesthetic, the purest abstraction imaginable, and her confusion at the idea of a marble statue- surely the epitome of purity and stillness- carrying the accidents of matter with it. Hence her breakdown at the sight of actual, physical human remains, and her double breakdown at Pompeii, where the remains are in an undeniable attitude of connection.

Alex is less explicit in his asceticism, but I think it's there, expressing itself as a sarcastic barrier between him and everything else that serves as a sort of condom, preventing him being infected by joy or sorrow or attachment- his inability to cheat, I think, speaks more to the fact that it would be committing to a particular course of action, one that might lead to powerful emotions and connections, and his clammy disgust at the thought of it, than it does to any particular loyalty to his marriage. The marriage is an interesting one, because it is simultaneously a connection- and in the film's terms, connection, emotional and physical, is what life is made of- but it is also a joint action against all the touching the world is doing at them, an isolation reinforced by being shared.

I think the end is perfect for maintaining this ambiguity, to some degree- who knows if Alex and Katherine are actually a couple that has any business staying together, but the actual moment of it is both this transcendent moment of rebirth, in which the inescapable (and my goodness do they try) aliveness of Italy, of a culture that has been worshiping and drinking and fucking and dying in much the same way for millenia, completely overwhelms them and brings them both Lazarus-like back form their state of living death, but also one in which Katherine is saved from a crush of humanity by uniting with her partner in the two person hell of nothingness they have created. The question is not so much whether they will stay together, but whether in a longer sense they have genuinely undergone change or merely recognized that the other forms a perfect armor against everything else in the world.

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Sloper
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Re: Journey to Italy (Roberto Rossellini, 1954)

#125 Post by Sloper » Tue May 17, 2016 12:29 pm

Drucker, that's a very good point about the sense of shock at the end of these films. I sort of disagree about the pregnancy in Stromboli, as I didn’t feel this was a surprise, but I do find the ending of that film ‘shocking’ in a different sense. There and in Europa 51, as you say, the endings feel like the natural, logical consequence of what came before, and yet as a viewer it’s still hard not to feel shaken by the decision to conclude the story in this way. The ending of Fear
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bears a strong resemblance to the ending of Journey, in one obvious sense. For some reason the reconciliation in that case didn’t strike me as a betrayal of what had led to that moment, and I was surprised at how moving it was, given that on the surface it was rather a trite happy ending. I think that film does a better job of suggesting the deep affection between the central couple: Bergman suffers magnificently (it’s what she does best), and in spite of the awful dubbing of Mathias Wieman on the English version, Wieman’s acting is still good enough to convey the character’s complex emotions and keep him from becoming too unsympathetic. We never get a definite sense of why Irene is having that affair, whereas we can see clearly why it pains her so much to be alienated from her family, and why she is so afraid of losing them. It’s the stuff of melodrama, but it works, and it’s in complete contrast to the cold alienation we see with the Joyces.
Hearing you frame the ending in those terms has made me re-evaluate it a bit. I was thinking of it as a sort of crowd-pleasing cop-out, but it does also have a confrontational quality about it – all the more so, as you say, because such a miraculous reunion seems to sit oddly with the searing portrait of a disintegrating relationship we’ve just witnessed.

Great post, matrix, and your reading of the film makes a lot of sense to me. Your comment about Alex’s failure to have an affair applies very well to his encounter with the prostitute, whom he calls a ‘shameless, brazen hussy’ with his usual tone of cold irony. It might not seem to apply to the encounter with Marie, who rejects him, but actually if you look at his sneering, lecherous expression when he’s walking behind her, or at his resigned shrug when she tells him her husband is on his way back, you can see very clearly that emotional ‘condom’ you were describing. It’s as if Alex is trying to play the George Sanders ‘type’, the callous but charming womaniser, but as per your reading he’s defeated in each case by a display of real, earnest emotion on the part of the woman: Marie’s love for her husband and the prostitute’s soul-baring confession about her dead friend and her own suicidal thoughts. He’s repeatedly stymied by the revelation that he’s living among people with actual feelings, and I think this is why he looks so wounded when Katherine tells him, over dinner, that the things he says to her are ‘mean’. At the end he’ll say, ‘Perhaps we get hurt too easily’, and evidently from his point of view his cutting, ironic comments are not actually intended to cause damage.

There’s a strong connection here with the portrayal of Gabriel Conroy in ‘The Dead’. When Gretta tells him about Michael Furey, the boy who may have died for love of her, he questions her in an ironic tone, but the deep emotion in her response, and the simple pathos of the story she tells, disarm him completely:
Gabriel felt humiliated by the failure of his irony and by the evocation of this figure from the dead, the boy in the gas-works. While he had been full of memories of their secret life together, full of tenderness and joy and desire, she had been comparing him in her mind with another. A shameful consciousness of his own person assailed him. He saw himself as a ludicrous figure, acting as a pennyboy for his aunts, a nervous, well-meaning sentimentalist, orating to vulgarians and idealising his own clownish lusts, the pitiable fatuous fellow he had caught a glimpse of in the mirror. Instinctively he turned his back more to the light lest she might see the shame that burned upon his forehead

He tried to keep up his tone of cold interrogation, but his voice when he spoke was humble and indifferent.
A little earlier, when Gabriel sees his own reflection, he sees ‘the face whose expression always puzzled him when he saw it in a mirror’. The parallel with Alex Joyce isn’t exact, but there’s that same sense of a man seeing himself as others see him, and finding out that he isn’t who he thought he was. Adrian Martin, in his commentary, observes that the film strips George Sanders of his usual charm and wit, leaving him a rather charmless, unsympathetic character. Maybe that’s one of the reasons Sanders hated working on the film so much.

In ‘The Dead’, after these revelations from his wife (who is now lying asleep) Gabriel finds himself communing with the world of the dead, perhaps in some ways like Katherine in Rossellini’s film:
The tears gathered more thickly in his eyes and in the partial darkness he imagined he saw the form of a young man standing under a dripping tree. Other forms were near. His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hordes of the dead. He was conscious of, but could not apprehend, their wayward and flickering existence. His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself, which these dead had one time reared and lived in, was dissolving and dwindling.
Those last words anticipate the famous final words of the story, in which snow falls apocalyptically, ‘like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead’. This passage insists, not on a simple passage from one realm to another, but on a dissolution of the boundaries between the two realms. The world becomes ‘impalpable’, but still in some sense material, ‘carrying the accidents of matter’ as you put it, incorporating both the flickering shades of the dead and the dissolved matter of the solid world; ‘no longer bodies’, but not quite ‘pure ascetic images’ either. The snow is solid, ‘thickly drifted’, and evokes strong physical and emotional sensations (‘My babe lies cold with my arms’, the shivering Michael Furey performing his great romantic gesture), but it also falls ‘softly’ and ‘faintly’, burying, freezing and numbing ‘the living and the dead’.
matrixschmatrix wrote:I think the end is perfect for maintaining this ambiguity, to some degree- who knows if Alex and Katherine are actually a couple that has any business staying together, but the actual moment of it is both this transcendent moment of rebirth, in which the inescapable (and my goodness do they try) aliveness of Italy, of a culture that has been worshiping and drinking and fucking and dying in much the same way for millenia, completely overwhelms them and brings them both Lazarus-like back form their state of living death, but also one in which Katherine is saved from a crush of humanity by uniting with her partner in the two person hell of nothingness they have created. The question is not so much whether they will stay together, but whether in a longer sense they have genuinely undergone change or merely recognized that the other forms a perfect armor against everything else in the world.
Reading your account of the ending makes me think of Joyce’s ending, where there is a similar ambiguity. On the one hand, Gabriel feels a sense of communion (‘friendly pity’) with his wife and her former lover, and with his fellow human beings generally, in contrast to the cold, ironic detachment he has maintained up until now. On the other hand, his final reverie is also a vision of emptiness and annihilation, perhaps something like the ‘hell of nothingness’ to which the Joyces philosophically resign themselves. I was going to disagree with you about Katherine and Alex ‘arming themselves’ against the crowd at the end of the film, because we see people in this crowd smiling happily at the spectacle of the reconciled couple, the camera movement suggests they are being absorbed into this crowd, and the final shot of happy, anonymous people flitting past while the band plays in the background seems to reinforce this idea. The Joyces have dissolved into this parade of fleshly humanity, having ceased to resist it. But in a way I think that your take on this is just as convincing, and that the two readings are not mutually exclusive. As at the end of Vidor’s The Crowd, that willing dissolution into the crowd is not just a way of re-connecting with others after being alienated from them, it’s also (arguably) a final renunciation of strong sensations and emotions (‘Perhaps we get hurt too easily’, ‘If I say I love you, will you promise not to take advantage of me?’), both the deep torment Katherine has been afflicted by and the transcendent joy she had hoped to attain.

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