Monday 4 November 2013

Stromboli [1950]

Ingrid Bergman was so impressed with Rossellini’s Open City and Paisan that she wrote a letter to the Italian auteur expressing her desire to work with him. With this began a much recounted but short-lived love story as they didn’t just collaborate on 5 films, Stromboli was the first of which, but also got embroiled in controversy on account of the extra-marital nature of their relationship even though the two eventually got married. Considered a landmark in Italy’s neo-realist movement, the film provided a troubling look into the country’s patriarchal society and deep-set religious orthodoxy with the scars from the just concluded WWII providing a key backdrop. Karin (Bergman) is a Lithuanian war refugee who agrees to a marriage of convenience with an Italian POW (Mario Vitale), upon which they relocate to the titular volcano island where he’s a fisherman. The realization as to what she has gotten into starts dawning on her thereafter, as the barren, desolate and suffocating wastelands, with the fear of the dormant volcano turning active perennially looming on all, aptly juxtaposed with the ultra-conservative nature of the island’s residents treating her as an outsider – regarding which there’s never any doubt – when she doesn’t conform to their image of a pious wife. It further worsens when her husband too turns out to be one of them as she finds herself alienated and cut-off from the world outside. Though the melodramatic portrayal of her situation didn’t always mix seamlessly with the harsh realism, particularly in the tad overdone finale, the fine B/W photography, Bergman’s immersive turn and the film’s ambivalent nature assisted in providing an affecting picture of a woman’s existential crisis.

Director: Roberto Rossellini
Genre: Drama/Marriage Drama/Rural Drama
Language: English/Italian
Country: Italy

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