It’s June and it’s almost summer. It’s time to swim, to go to the beach, to drink lemonade but also for us, bloggers, it’s time for the Beach Party Blogathon! This wonderful event is hosted by Speakeasy and Silver Screenings. For the occasion, I’ve decided to explore Roberto Rossellini’s Stromboli. I said to myself that it would be an interesting movie to talk about and also a good occasion to write about Italian neorealism, a cinematographic movement I learned a lot about during my cinema history classes at school.
When we see Stromboli, we cannot really talk about a “beach party”. I chose this film because it takes place on an Italian volcanic island located in the Mediterranean sea: Stromboli. Karen (Ingrid Bergman), a Lithuanian refugee, is in an Italian camp. She escapes it by marrying an Italian fisherman, Antonio (Mario Vitale), that she has met in the camp. Together, they go to his home on the island of Stromboli. Despite the fact that he promised her a happy life, she soon discovers that it’s not at all what she was expecting. Stromboli hard place to live. It’s poor and its inhabitants are very conservative. Karen feels, as a stranger, that she is not welcomed on the island and starts to live her new miserable life.
Of course, all this is not so joyful, and far from being a party. When they are on the boat, on their way to the island, Karen is wearing a long coat because the air is cold, and we can feel it’s an unpleasant coldness. When Antonio tells her that there is a volcano on the island, Karen facial expression changes and she seems to say to herself “what am I doing here?”. Then, they arrive on the island where they meet the priest (Renzo Cesana) and they go to their home. Karen has the same unhappy expression when she discovers what her new house looks like. The priest is the only one to see her distress and tells her to be patient. She then decides to re-decorate the place, to make it more appealing. It’s now the first moment of the film where she looks happy. Well, that doesn’t last long, because she is soon accused by the women of the village to have no modesty. They also accuse her to be a flirt. Karen then feels more unwelcome than ever and simply wants to get out of this island. The only moment in this film where we feel like she’s enjoying the sea life is when she’s sitting on a rock and sees children bathing in the water. She then decides to go walk in the water with them.
When Rossellini was filming Stromboli, a volcanic eruption really happened. Of course, this was “perfect” for the movie. What’s wrong with a little action? He used this “matter of life and death moment” in his film. During this stressful scene, the villagers are running away to the sea, trying to avoid the inflamed rocks. So, if the movie itself is far from being a beach party, shooting it was even worse, especially for Mrs. Bergman. I recently read a captivating biography of her and I can tell you that this was certainly her most difficult shooting. The conditions were certainly not as easy as in Hollywood and it also was a big turning point in her life as she was at the beginning of her love relation with Rossellini.
Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini on the set of Stromboli
If my memory is good, Stromboli is the first foreign film I review for this blog. Of course, I can not write this text without talking a little about what I know of Italian Neorealism. Neorealism is known as a post-war film movement (1945-1952). Its objective was to make movies for the people, movies that showed what Italy had become because of the war, its poverty, and social problems. The equipment to shoot these movies was limited. Directors opted for on-location shooting, dialogues were simple, and unprofessional actors were used, even for leading roles. In Stromboli, Ingrid Bergman and Renzo Cesana were the only professional actors among the cast. Mario Vitale was discovered by Rossellini. He was first supposed to only play a fisherman but Rossellini decided to give him the male leading role. Neorealism is between fiction and documentary. The movies are fictional but they are showing us the truth without any exaggerations. Rome, Open City, also directed by Roberto Rossellini, is known as the first Italian Neorealist Film.
I’ve just mentioned Ingrid Bergman. I think the movie would not have been the same without her. Anna Magnani was the first choice for the role of Karen but she lost it to Ingrid Bergman. There’s really something about Ingrid Bergman, a kind of strength that adds a lot to the film, that makes it stronger. Ingrid Bergman really was an incredibly talented actress. After having seen her in American movies like Casablanca or Notorious, it’s interesting to see her in something completely different. Diversity is certainly something great. Mario Vitale and Renzo Cesana also did a great job. Cesana was perfect as the priest and acted without too many extravagances.
One of the most incredible scenes of this film is certainly the tuna-fishing scene. That’s quite a sport because tunas are really big fishes. I think that’s one of the scenes people remember the best about the film. It’s also one of the most interesting scenes because we can feel it wasn’t made with special effects. I’ll let you watch this scene now, but, of course, you have to see the entire movie too.
I can’t say that Stromboli is my favourite Italian film but it’s certainly one of the most interesting ones and I was happy to share my thoughts about it with you. I’ll leave you on this with actress Isabella Rossellini (Ingrid and Roberto’s daughter) talking about this film. She is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting persons to listen to. Enjoy!
I was happy to be part of this blogathon. Of course, don’t forget to read to other entries: