Sunday, November 14, 2010

Movies in Italy: Voyages in Italy (Roberto Rosselini, 1954)

A film about the disintegration of an upper class English couple set in Naples, this film was originally considered a failure, Rosselini's cementing of his turn away from neorealism towards plotless stories about the upper class. The Italian and American critics hated it, but the French loved it, with Rivette proclaiming, "With the appearance of "Viaggio in Italia', all films have suddenly aged ten years". Although I would disagree that this film was as radical a shift from the films that came before it, it is definitely a departure from the typical products of the time. Rosselini does not use a traditional three-part narrative to portray the conflict between husband and wife. Instead, it is unfolded through their interactions with Naples: with its copious pregnant women, religious fervor, ancient ruins, and affinity for catacombs for the dead--almost a teaser for the far radical departure in narrative that will be introduced by Antonioni five years later. Some may think that the ending is abrupt and contrived, but do notice the actual ending: the film cuts away from the protagonists into a random street scene, which says a lot about what the filmmaker is really thinking about this "relationship".

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