Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Stromboli (1950) [NR] ****

A film review by Dr. Svet Atanasov, for, on September 24, 2013.

Roberto Rossellini's Stromboli (1950) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The release contains two versions of the film, English and Italian. Also included on this release are: short introduction to the film by Roberto Rossellini, exclusive new video interview with Italian film critic Adriano Apra, and Nino Bizzarri's documentary film Rossellini Under the Volcano. In Italian or English, with optional English and English SDH subtitles. Region-A locked.

Stromboli, the first collaboration between Italian master Roberto Rossellini and the great Ingrid Bergman, begins in a displaced persons' camp somewhere in Farfa, Italy. There the beautiful Karin (Bergman), a Lithuanian refugee, hopes to get a permit that will allow her to emigrate from Italy to Argentina. While waiting for the Argentinean authorities to review her application, Karin frequently sees Antonio (Mario Vitale), a charming soldier from Sicily who knows only a few words of English.

When her application is rejected, Karin agrees to marry Antonio and go back with him to Stromboli, a small but supposedly very beautiful Mediterranean island. The enthusiastic Antonio immediately promises Karin, in broken English, that they will have a happy life together.

But shortly after they reach Stromboli, Karin begins to question her decision to follow Antonio because the island is very much a place where time seems to have stopped. Excluding a few fishermen, there are hardly any young people around. And not too far away from Antonio's house, which looks more like a hut, there is an active volcano. Feeling misled, Karin begins questioning her husband, and later on, barely able to contain her anger, she announces that she will leave him as soon as she can. When Antonio vows to work hard to give her what she needs, Karin tells him that he simply does not deserve her.

The local priest occasionally meets Karin and tries to help her understand the way people on Stromboli live their lives, but she becomes even more depressed. Eventually, after the volcano erupts and nearly destroys Antonio's house, Karin vows to do the impossible - cross the mountain alone and reach the village on the opposite side of the island where she can ask the owner of the only motorboat in the area to transport her back to the mainland.

The majority of Stromboli feels like a documentary feature about an exotic place where life has a very unique rhythm. The camera follows closely the disillusioned Karin as she visits different corners of the island and tries to come to terms with the fact that she has essentially become a prisoner, but large portions of the film are also dedicated to fishing rituals and the seemingly alive volcano.

Both Karin and the volcano undergo fascinating transformations. The first transformation is linked to religious overtones that effectively change the manner in which the film is viewed and ultimately understood. (They are in harsh contrast with its neo-realistic qualities). The second mirrors Karin's behavior. At first calm and seemingly willing to coexist with the fishermen, the volcano suddenly comes alive and then nearly destroys the tiny village.

The message of the film is that life is unpredictable and frequently demanding painful sacrifices. It feels terribly relevant today, when so many women like Bergman's Karin are willing to risk a lot, or everything, when promised a better future.

Three official versions of Stromboli exist, but according to film scholar Elena Dagrada, an expert on Rossellini's films with Bergman, none can be considered official or complete. They are: RKO's American version which was released in 1950, a longer international version which was shown at the Venice Film Festival in 1950, and the slightly shorter Italian-language version, Stromboli terra di Dio, which was released in Italian cinemas.

Criterion's Blu-ray release contains two versions of the film: the English-language version, Stromboli, which runs at approximately 106 minutes, and the Italian-language version, Stromboli terra di Dio, which runs at approximately 100 minutes.

Criterion's Blu-ray release of Roberto Rossellini's Stromboli, a film which has not been easy to see on this side of the Atlantic for years, is a revelation. It contains two versions of the film both of which have been restored and look very good. As far as I am concerned, Criterion's 3 Films by Roberto Rossellini Starring Ingrid Bergman box set is one of the year's must-own releases.

Labels: drama

Blogger’s comment: After the end of WW II, Italian neo-realist director Roberto Rossellini made two films, Rome, Open City (1945) and Paisan (1946). Ingrid Bergman saw them, and having grown bored with Hollywood-style filmmaking, wrote to Rossellini and offered her services as an actress. Rossellini came to California, met Bergman and her surgeon husband Petter Lindstrom, and decided to cast her in his upcoming film Stromboli. Filming began in 1948 on the volcanic island of Stromboli, northeast of Sicily, using a largely amateur cast and without a shooting script, on a tiny island with an active volcano and without electricity or water. Despite the harsh filming conditions (one crew member died during filming), Bergman and Rossellini began a passionate love affair, resulting in Bergman’s pregnancy. Divorce and proxy marriage followed, and son Roberto was joined by twin daughters Isabella and Ingrid Rossellini. The marriage and filmmaking relationship lasted eight years and ended in divorce.

While Stromboli is interesting from an historical perspective, Rossellini’s neo-realistic style of making movies, using an amateur cast and no script, eventually proved to be not Bergman’s style.

Personally, I find the film dated and unapproachable, the ending totally unsatisfying and a complete waste of Ingrid Bergman’s incredible talent, and I award the film 3 stars out of a possible 5 stars.

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