GLORIOUS. Roberto Rossellini's 1954 film VIAGGIO IN ITALIA aka VOYAGE TO ITALY has been on my "must see" list for a while and I've finally gotten hold of a copy thanks to Weaverman in England; the film is shockingly unavailable in the States. While this is an Italian film, it is in English with no subtitles. VIAGGIO stars Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders as Katherine & Alex Joyce: a married couple who travel to Naples to dispose of a villa left to them by a dead uncle. Almost right away, it is remarked upon that this is the first time in their entire marriage where they truly are alone with each other. Also almost immediately it becomes apparent that there is serious trouble in their marriage; Alex is sarcastic and hurtful to his wife while Katherine is judgmental and guarded. Katherine also discovers that Alex has a wandering eye for the ladies. The couple have very little to say to one another and soon decide to separate for a while; Katherine stays to visit art museums and historical sites while Alex goes to Capri to socialize with friends and young ladies.
The dramatic tension between the two leads is incredible. Bergman is brilliant (as usual) and George Sanders, while remaining George Sanders, also does a surprisingly superb acting job: probably the best I've ever seen him. Rossellini's use of the surrounding Italian locations is breathtaking while also serving to comment somehow on the interior goings-on of the lead characters. During the film's running time, Bergman and Sanders appear apart almost as much as they appear together. While there are several instances of fighting between them, it never comes in the form of a shouting match (no Liz Taylor and Richard Burton here) but the scenes play much more realistically as we are witness to the genuine hurt each one causes the other. This is particularly surprising in Sanders' performance since we are used to seeing his sarcastic exterior -- and we still do here -- but Sanders allows us to see the layers of vulnerability beneath the surface facade. Bergman herself is masterful as she alternately seems to bond with the culture and history of Italy while remaining puzzled and distant in her relationship with Sanders.
The film was so radically different and unexpected at the time of release that bombed miserably and was even greeted with some hostility. I myself find that attitude bewildering since it's an enormously emotional and powerful film beautifully acted, shot and directed. Of course, I'm not speaking from 1954 so perhaps I am a bit more wired towards understanding than audiences a half century ago. Once again I am endlessly grateful to Weaverman for providing me with a viewing copy of the film.