Saturday, April 13, 2013
247. Europa '51 (1952)
Running Time: 113 minutes
Directed By: Roberto Rossellini
Written By: Sandro De Feo, Mario Pannunzio, Ivo Perilli, Brunello Rondi, Roberto Rossellini
Main Cast: Ingrid Bergman, Alexander Knox, Ettore Giannini, Giulietta Masina, Marcella Rovena
ROSSELLINI WEEK: PART THREE
I'm really surprised at how fast I'm getting through these Rossellini movies, considering the fact that I'm really not taking to them very well. "Open City" was a complete letdown, "Paisan" was a little better, but still nothing worth writing home about and now you have "Europa '51", that is in the middle somewhere.
The film opens with Irene Girard (Bergman) arriving home (via her driver), a bourgeoisie housewife, who has invited guests to dinner at the last minute. She gets inside, informs the servants and cooks of the impending arrival of the, apparently, important guests and then lets her husband George (Knox) in on who's visiting. While she frantically gets ready, slipping into a stunning white dress, her son (probably between the ages of 7 and 10) eagerly tries to get her attention, proclaiming that he needs to talk to her. She gives him about half of her attention, but continually updates the servants on the activities of the evening and continues to get ready, never really giving her son the attention he craves. During dinner, after the guests have arrived, Irene's son continues to try to get her attention, saying he's sick and needs her, but she still just doesn't have time for him, forcing him to go to sleep and basically telling him to leave her alone. Then, during dinner, a maid informs Irene that her son has thrown himself down the stairs and is hurt badly. At the hospital, she is told that he fractured his hip and is sent home the next day. Irene, of course, feels awful about the whole ordeal and the next day, when her son is at home, he dies of an embolism. For weeks, Irene confines herself to her bed, with George pleading with her to please eat and try to get herself back to normal. Irene refuses and only when she can finally talk to her best friend, Andrea (Giannini) does she feel a little better. Andrea is a newspaperman, who, during casual conversation, tells her about a family that doesn't have the money to get their son the medicine he needs and that he'll probably die. The family being discussed lives in a ghetto area and Irene happily suggests lending the poor family the money to get the medicine. What follows is a complete transformation for Irene, from bourgeoisie housewife, hosting important dinner parties and employing maids and servants to the Irene that gives to poor and helps the less fortunate...even to the dismay of her husband.
For the sake of getting to bed at a reasonable hour, I'm going to TRY to keep this review as short & sweet as possible. To begin with, anybody out there that owns THE BOOK, let me tell you that the picture that is used with the "Europa '51" entry, is nowhere to be found in the finished film and actually, it's a pretty eerie shot of Ingrid Bergman staring at a heavily shrouded, ghost-like figure. Either I TOTALLY missed this in the movie (which I really don't think I did) or it just isn't there, which begs the question: Where did this picture come from? Anyway...
The most fascinating aspect of "Europa '51", to me anyway, is how Ingrid Bergman's character is basically condemned for making the decision to be a good person. In fact, she is condemned to the point of being locked away in a mental institution, because no one can seem to understand why this upper class woman would want to, all of a sudden, start helping people. It king of reverts back to the ideas that were brought up in "Haxan" - a film I watched, what seems like, so long ago - where they bring forth the idea that mentally unstable people in the olden days were thought to be witches, due to their erratic behavior. Okay, maybe one has nothing to do with the other, but it just got me to thinking about how mental illness can, so often, be misunderstood and misdiagnosed. Perhaps Rossellini was even trying to make parallels between Irene Girard and Joan of Arc? Both women who were considered saints by the people that knew them, but condemned by their country, because being good and pure is too queer an idea for society to accept.
There were certainly good things about this movie, but as a whole, I wouldn't call it a good movie. It was acceptable, at best and I'd hoped for something more, having moved out of the "War Trilogy" and into the Ingrid Bergman/Rossellini collaborative efforts. I've never been a huge fan of Ingrid Bergman. I find her to be a bit stale and actually, quite unattractive for a Hollywood leading lady or any leading lady, for that matter. She shines here though and I'd say that this MAY HAVE been her best performance yet, from THE BOOK. The rest of the cast, however, is a non-issue, because this is a one woman show and that's a shame with the gifted Giulietta Masina on set and Alexander Knox, who seems to be prepared to turn in a fine performance, but is never given the chance. The film starts out really good. The suicide committed by a child, the depression of a housewife, but then we get into some less interesting storytelling and by the end, aside from the whole condemnation of a "saint" idea, they'd pretty much lost me. Bergman fans are going to love this, as are Rossellini fans, I'm sure. However, casual moviegoers or even avid moviegoers, I think, will find the film too long, with not enough going on to maintain it's running time (not even two hours, but still). THE BOOK compares the film to a stew that certain moviegoers might be hesitant to taste. Having tasted this stew, I can say that something tasty to wash it down with is a must..."Voyage in Italy" perhaps? We'll see.
RATING: 5.5/10 Again, a Rossellini picture that just sort of languishes here in the dead zone (anything between a 4.5 - 6.5 - neither good, nor bad). Next up for "Rossellini Week": "Voyage in Italy".
MOVIES WATCHED: 656
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 345
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