Irene Wagner, the wife of prominent scientist Albert Wagner, finds herself blackmailed about her affair by her lover's jealous ex-girlfriend. The plot, an experiment in causing fear, drives her into a rage.
Even Rossellini's principal apologist, Tag Gallagher, doesn't make great claims for this film, characterizing it as a talkfest featuring a rather sullen main character. True enough, I suppose. It is also, however, about a subject that could be of particular interest today: how to rule without losing one's conscience and ideals. The scene is post World War II Italy, the country in shambles and political parties unable to form a workable coalition. The film follows the struggle of the Christian Democrats to rule, constantly menaced by, above all, the Communists, who make democratic rule difficult. Christian Democrat leader De Gasperi is the protagonist, and, while he does appear glum (not unlike Rossellini's "Blaise Pascal") he is also superbly eloquent and when he talks (which is a great deal of the time) it is worth listening. As to the specifically filmic side of things: Rossellini's famous long takes (aided strongly by his superb dolly and zoom lens techniques) are much in evidence. The art direction is (apparently) flawless: one doesn't doubt for a moment that one is in postwar Italy. The greater achievement in that the film dates from 1974, when everything on American screens (from The Great Gatsby to The Way We Were) looked like 1974! Consequently, this film has not dated at all. Nor, of course, has it been much seen. (I am shocked that this is the third Rossellini film for which I am the first IMDb reviewer.) It is available (very cheaply) in a Region 2 two-sided DVD in a beautiful print. (The other side is a rather awful print of "11 Fioretti di San Francesco".) French subtitles only (and there are a million of them). If you read French (or speak Italian -- Italian s.t. only) and have a Region 2 player, this is well worth a look.
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