Journey to Italy

Roberto Rossellini’s tale of a bored English couple travelling to Italy becomes a passionate story of cruelty and cynicism as their marriage disintegrates.

This deceptively simple tale of a bored English couple travelling to Italy is transformed by Roberto Rossellini into a passionate story of cruelty and cynicism as their marriage disintegrates around them. Now fifty years old, Journey to Italy is recognised not simply as one of Rossellini’s greatest films, but as a key landmark in the development of modern cinema.

Deliberately rejecting many aspects of ‘classic’ Hollywood narrative, the film’s meandering storyline creates space for ideas and time for reflection and is built around symmetry, repetition and a pattern of themes. Rossellini fills the space with powerful cinematography and with images and ideas celebrating the ancient culture that had grown up around the volcano, Vesuvius, as well as the lives of the Neapolitan people he filmed.

The story unfolds during seven days spent by Alexander and Katherine Joyce (George Sanders and Ingrid Bergman) in and around Naples. As they wait to find a buyer for the house Alex has inherited from an uncle, their unusual surroundings bring out unexpected strains in their marriage. Alex rails against his forced inactivity while Katherine goes off alone on excursions around the sights.

For the purposes of the story, Rossellini wanted his stars to be as confused and troubled during the production as their characters should be on screen. He took absolute control over the filmmaking process; actors were not shown a script or allowed to prepare a performance. George Sanders, fresh from his Oscar for All About Eve, was delighted to be working with the director of Rome, Open City, but he was not a natural improviser and was as lost and disorientated as Rossellini wanted him to be. While Bergman had naturally already experienced Rossellini’s working methods, she too was not a natural improviser, but from the apparent confusion there emerges a reality that affects the presence of the stars on the screen.

Special features

  • Commentary by film historian Laura Mulvey, Professor of Film Studies at Birkbeck, University of London.
  • Biography of Roberto Rossellini.

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      • 2 Europe (except Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus), Middle East, Egypt, Japan, South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, Greenland, French Overseas departments and territories

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