The intense, oft-overlooked Europe ’51 was, according to Rossellini, a retelling of his own The Flowers of St. Francis from a female perspective. As a way of dealing with grief over the death of her young son, a self-absorbed Rome socialite devotes her time and money to the city’s poor and sick.
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Some consider the bourgeois woman Irene to be a secular saint. Deleuze describes her as "a mummy radiating tenderness." But, as she herself explains, "Love for others springs from the hate I feel for myself." This isn't a glib Italian sermon on Humanism, nor mystical union--she isn't a symbol or sign, but a unique artistic creation born from catharsis and guilt into one doomed to perform actions of love and respect.
Thank goodness I was able to get English subs for this film, and did not have to watch what sounds like a horribly dubbed version. Bergman's performance is great, and the little things - such as the interactions between Irene and the little girl Daniella, and Irene's experience in the factory - made this a great experience for me.
Look for the story beneath the story. Or the story looking out of the story. Namely, look into Ingrid Bergman's eyes. The eyes of a trapped woman in her uncommon purity. Then there is the city. A new city. An oppressive and drab fortification, its poor penned up in slums. Glowering factories. The movie at the surface, the didactic melodrama, is a bit much. But the beauty and grace shine stridently through.
Rossellini made a beautiful film about a woman who sacrifices everything and becomes a saint and called it Europe '51. I loved the way he contrasts the melodrama set up with harsh imagery, making for a great, tragic atmosphere!
The english dubbing isn't that great, and the print I saw had irritating french subtitles (in orange!), and wasn't in very good condition. However there's definitely a masterpiece underneath the technical problems. I would love to see this film restored.
Also, the appearance of Giulietta Masina was a pleasant surprise.
Irene's pure altruism cannot be confined within messianic narratives: it is neither Christian nor Communist. And in the heavily ideological landscape of post-war Europe, her kindness can only be mistaken for insanity.
I keep thinking Jeanne d'Arc meets Pickpocket - and that's the problem with archetypes right there. Rossellinis pursuit of more abstract aspects of social critique becomes clearer with this film, recursively, for Germania Anno Zero too. Still, something a tad too naive not to steal a smile keeps flimmering in the images.
CINEMA, 35mm _ Rossellini is a master to capture the right emotion, to find the right distance. This film combines some of his favourite patterns : the couple that can't communicate anymore, the child tempted by death, religion, and the great Ingrid Bergman... And of course a strong combination of work of fiction and neorealism. This here is never spectacular but look twice : the directing is as precise as can be.