Roberto Rossellini is considered the godfather of Italian neorealism, having inspired the movement with his internationally successful Rome Open City (1945). This film and his next, Paison (1946), utilized the bombed out cities devastated by World War II in order to make films with real locations rather than sets. They also often used non-actors for the roles, so many saw it as a betrayal when Rossellini began working with Swedish actress turned Hollywood star, Ingrid Bergman. The professional relationship quickly became a romantic one, though never entirely private.
The gossip about their relationship may have tainted audience perception at the time of release, or perhaps it was more of the stylistic departure that Rossellini had taken, but these three films are much more highly regarded today than they were initially received. The romantic and professional partners in film collaborated on six films together, with the three most notable included in this fabulous box set. Stromboli, Europe '51, and Journey to Italy have more in common than simply the star and director, also pairing together quite nicely as a trilogy of films about the difficulties of marriage.
Stromboli (1950) is a bleak drama about a woman who is literally trapped in her marriage, stuck on a volcanic island with a man whom she married as an escape plan. In her first collaboration with the Italian filmmaker, Bergman plays a Lithuanian refugee who marries an Italian fisherman (Mario Vitale) as a way of leaving the prisoner of war camp she is trapped in. Unaware that she is trading one prison for another; her husband takes her back to his isolated village on a volcanic island off the coast of Sicily. What begins as a marriage of convenience becomes a cruel trap for both parties.
Europe '51 (1952) plays down the aspects of marriage compared to the other two films in this set, though it clearly shows a breakdown in familial bliss when the bourgeois ideology of consumerism is not enough to keep the family together. The movie begins with a dinner party which has a couple of socialites too preoccupied to tend to their needy child. When this neglect leads to a suicide attempt and subsequent death, the child's mother, Irene (Bergman), is forced to look at the world differently. Suddenly aware of the suffering around her, Irene becomes dedicated to a self-sacrificial lifestyle which inevitably leads to her demise. The final bleak message of the film is that too much generosity and good will may be construed as mental illness in the world we live in.
Journey to Italy (1954) was the most commercially viable of Rossellini's collaborations with Bergman, charting the decline of marital bliss between an English husband and wife (Bergman and George Sanders) on a road trip in the country near Naples. This is also the film which receives the most attention in this set, with a second disc exclusively for the supplements while the other films had only one.
All three movies are presented with digital restoration and the original monaural soundtrack. Stromboli is presented with a 4K digital restoration, and also has a 2K digital restoration of the Italian-language version, Stromboli terra di Dio. Europe '51 is also available in two versions: a 2K digital restoration of the English-language version and a high-definition restoration of the Italian-language version, which is 9 minutes longer and a different cut of the same material. There is only one version of Journey to Italy, presented with a 4K digital restoration and uncompressed monaural soundtrack.
All three films come with an optional introduction by Rossellini, as well as a plethora of other features with film critics and filmmakers alike praising the collaborations between these two international legends, including new interviews with film critic Adriano Aprà. Stromboli also has a making-of documentary from 1998 and Europe '51 has a new interview with film historian Elena Dagrada on the alternate versions of the film. Journey to Italy has a commentary track with film scholar Laura Mulvey, as well as new interviews from a handful of scholars and experts. The second disc has even more, including an additional short film directed by Rossellini and starring Bergman, and a documentary about each of them. There are also more interviews with family members and some home footage.
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