Starring: Ingrid Bergman, George Sanders, Paul Muller
Director: Roberto Rossellini
Running Time: 88 mins
Journey To Italy is an Italian film about a long-term married couple who travel to the south of Italy on holiday, but soon find that the surroundings expose the cracks in their relationship.
With two legendary actors in Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders, and with classic director Roberto Rossellini at the helm, Journey To Italy is undoubtedly an impressive watch, portraying the decay of a lifelong marriage in a starkly real and often even brutal manner. Although the film’s highest emotion may only start to bubble over by the final act, there’s a fascinating story to follow right from the beginning.
In the end, this may not be the film to have you biting your nails and reeling from the emotion, but thanks to some strong writing throughout, and the two lead performances in particular, it is a consistently engaging watch, and that’s where we’ll start. With strong chemistry throughout that makes them a convincing long-term married couple, Bergman and Sanders play a huge role in the central tension that makes the film so intriguing at times.
It’s a similar story to films like Two For The Road, but the depiction of this marriage falling apart is all the more stark and ruthless. That’s not to say it’s a heavy-going or even depressing film, but there’s no respite from the husband and wife’s conflict at any point. However, as Bergman and Sanders grow almost unbelievably cold towards one another, from what seemed like an average but happy enough relationship, things become very emotionally strained, making for a tense watch.
What’s more is that you have the conflicting opinions on the Italian culture that the pair are immersed in. Sanders, playing a strongly traditional Englishman, is often appalled by all the madness that seems to go on in Italy, whereas Bergman is more forgiving. However, as the film develops, and their relationship changes, you see those opinions alter to a degree as well, pushing the two further and further apart in more ways than one, again heightening that strained central relationship that plays such a vital role in the story.
Another big positive to take from the film comes in the form of Roberto Rossellini’s directing. Much like many of his works from the era, Journey To Italy is a slow-moving and very reflective film, but it does help to let you focus in on the pure emotion of the two main characters, and by contrasting the supposedly hectic Italian lifestyle with that slow, quiet atmosphere, it makes for a powerfully introspective feel, very similar in atmosphere to the likes of Hiroshima Mon Amour.
On the flipside, I can’t say that this film works like total clockwork, and it occasionally fails to keep you fully gripped in its story in some of the slower and arguably more inconsequential sequences. The overarching story of the collapsing marriage is fascinating, but there are a good few sequences in which we can see where a character is going to develop to right from the beginning, and given that they’re not all that important in the greater scheme of things, they can make for slightly boring watching at times.
Overall, however, I was impressed by Journey To Italy. It’s not a perfect film, but with two excellent lead performances, strong writing and directing throughout, it’s an emotionally tense and riveting drama about marriage, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.4