Friday, August 6, 2010

My Log 208: Rossellini’s famous film Stromboli more notable for the master’s cinematography than for Ingrid Bergman

I saw the Roberto Rossellini film Stromboli today, a film I missed when it was produced in 1950, but one that made a strong imprint on all our young imaginations, considering the scandal that surrounded it.

This was the film during the shooting of which the beautiful Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman, happily married with a child to a Swedish doctor, engaged in a torrid love affair with Rossellini, by whom she bore a child, since become famous herself as the actress Isabella Rossellini.

Although it is hard to believe it now, looking back, Hollywood was so scandalized by an actress having such an affair, and not apologizing for it, and she was so excoriated by the American press, that it brought a shuddering halt to Miss Bergman’s brilliant career in American films, which was not resumed for several years.

I seem to remember that the film itself, although directed by the dean of the Italian neo-realist school, was heavily criticized by most of the critics, although Rossellini himself denounced the cut that was released, saying it had been butchered by the Hollywood studio.

In fact, it is rather a trite film, with a poor script that merely emphasizes its banality. A European woman trapped by the war in an Italian refugee camp, decides to escape by marrying a young Italian whom she has met through the camp fence.

When he takes her to his home, however, she finds herself living on a volcanic island containing an almost abandoned town, most of whose residents have moved to the United States or some other immigrant country. The land is virtually useless because of the frequent volcanic eruptions, and the young woman is immediately seized with the need to get away by whatever means she can devise.

Such means do not present themselves until she takes advantage of the confusion caused by an eruption, and, although three months pregnant, decides to try to reach a village on the other side of the island. Her attempt to circle the mountain, however, fails, and the film ends with her invoking God to come to her aid and give her courage to confront life.

The film is notable, however, for its cinematography, brilliant and gripping documentary-like sequences of a tuna-fishing method involving the whole village, with dozens of large tuna being hauled into their enormous boats; and some wonderful shots of the volcanic eruption and the panic and confusion caused to the fleeing villagers.

Rossellini, truly, was a master film-maker, who deserves to be remembered for that, rather than for his success as seducer of the most beautiful and charismatic European actress.


  1. Do you know this song?

    "Ingrid Bergman"

    Ingrid Bergman, Ingrid Bergman,
    let's go make a picture
    On the island of Stromboli, Ingrid Bergman

    Ingrid Bergman, you're so pretty,
    you'd make any mountain quiver
    You'd make fire fly from the crater,
    Ingrid Bergman

    This old mountain it's been waiting
    All its life for you to work it
    For your hand to touch its hardrock,
    Ingrid Bergman, Ingrid Bergman

    If you'll walk across my camera,
    I will flash the world your story,
    I will pay you more than money, Ingrid Bergman

    Not by pennies dimes nor quarters,
    but with happy sons and daughters,
    And they'll sing around Stromboli,
    Ingrid Bergman

    - lyrics by Woody Guthrie, sung by Billy Bragg + Wilco on "Mermaid Avenue"

  2. Andrea: Thanks for this. No, I hadn't known the song, but it is nice.