Journey to Italy (1954)

Love. Exciting and new. Except when it stops being those things, as it appears to have done rather a while ago for Mr and Mrs Joyce, who are making the titular journey to dispose of his late uncle’s villa near Naples; for the first time in eight years they’re really alone with each other, stuck in a foreign country, isolated from the other people and places and things they’re familiar with. They’re strangers in a strange land, in more ways than one, and they’re finally realising just how strange they are to each other. It’s fitting that Martin Scorsese’s documentary on Italian cinema placed this as a lead-in to discussing Antonioni, cos it gave me a feeling of the latter for some reason (particularly La notte), albeit ultimately somewhat less dark. Both George Sanders and Ingrid Bergman hated the unscripted filmmaking process that Rossellini insisted upon, a trick which I think enhances the film considerably; the frustration and irritation the characters feel with each other and the situation they’re in is matched, and made visible on screen, by the actors’ frustration and irritation with their own situation (plus Bergman’s own marriage to Rossellini was itself in strife, and I suppose that fed into the film as well). And yet I didn’t find myself that emotionally involved in the story for all that; the characters have reached this impasse for what we may presume are various reasons, but ultimately we’re not really invited to side with either, both of them have contributed through their lack of understanding towards the collapse. Unfortunately I didn’t really find either individual hugely sympathetic, so that I never really found myself feeling as deeply for them as I’m sure I was supposed to…

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