Journey to Italy

Journey to Italy (Roberto Rossellini, 1954) Viaggio in Italia; George Sanders, Ingrid Bergman

The making of this film was funded mostly by the Naples Tourist Board, and partly by the Italian Marriage Guidance Counselling office. It shows an English couple seeing the sites. The dialogue is almost entirely in English throughout, though one or two Italians do not speak the language (local colour). They are acutely aware of the difficulties they are having, and at the close have found a way to become reconciled and are back in love.

More seriously: this is apparently considered (by the BFI) to be a 'great' film. It's not. Also Rossellini's greatest? I'm glad I haven't seen too many of the bad ones.

The story? It almost doesn't have one. It's a travelogue of the Naples area: Vesuvius, Pompeii, etc. An 'English' married people (she's Swedish) make the trip. Their marriage is supposed to be falling apart, but to me it looks more like they're bored being in the film than with each other. Then, in the last one minute of the film, their love for each other is miraculously reborn. No motivation: it just occurs. The couple in the film have never had any relationship anyway, so it doesn't matter much that they finish up with a different one.

Rossellini was going through a difficult relationship with one of his series of women, in this case Ingrid Bergman, and I think he was trying to work it out by making a film about it, as I suppose you do if you're a prolific film-maker. (See also Woody Allen.) She is half of the marital problem, the other half supplied by cardboard-cutout Sanders, representing Rossellini, but playing his usual 'cad' – as he himself called it in his autobiography.

I think I have to know quite a bit more about film history than I do to understand why this is highly regarded. Apparently it's 'modernist' - whatever that means in this context: apparently it's something to do with making it up almost as you go along.

References and Links

The British Film Institute page for the 'greatest films of all time'.

Wikipedia page.

IMDb page.

Sanders, George 1960, Memoirs of a Professional Cad, Putnam, London.


Garry Gillard | New: 9 January, 2022 | Now: 9 January, 2022