Karen, a young woman from the Baltic countries, marries fisherman Antonio to escape from a prisoners camp. But the life in Antonio's village, Stromboli, threatened by the volcano, is a tough one and Karen cannot get used to it.
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Living in an Italian refugee camp in 1948, the beautiful Karen meets Antonio, a resident of the men's camp. While not in love with him, Karen marries him and they soon set of for his home village, Stromboli. The village is on a remote island at the foot of an active volcano. She despairs at what she finds when she arrives. The village is on barren land and virtually devoid of people as many have left, mostly for the United States. She doesn't speak the local dialect and is treated with disdain by some of the locals who see her as an exotic foreigner and a loose woman. After Antonio beats her and locks her in their house, she sets off across the mountains to seek her freedom and a better future.Written by
In the promotional material, Howard Hughes played up the parallels between the character she played and the recent indiscreet behavior of lead actress Ingrid Bergman. He re-cut the film behind Rosselini's back and refused to screen it for the press. The film got talked about before it was seen. It was banned outright in Memphis, and the Roman Catholic church urged its priests not to see it. As a result of the public tempest, the movie opened to phenomenal business, earning nearly $1 million on its first day. See more »
Though used by women, pants were not so popular on that time. Is strange that a poor refugee like the character played by Bergman wears pants almost the entire movie. See more »
I don't care about your barley. Or, your vines! Or, your new terra! I want to leave this island and go away, far away! Like all the others who lived here and were born here and went away, far away!
...Listen, this is my home! You are my wife! You stay because I want to!
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Opening credits: "Our story begins in the displaced persons' camp of Farfa, Italy." See more »
I enjoyed reading "erupting beauty" (The Big Combo, 2 February 2004) for a good summary of Stromboli. Zetes ("A vastly underrated masterpiece", zetes from Saint Paul, MN, 15 June 2002) and bkoganbing ("Ingrid and the volcano", bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York, 29 August 2012) both include good background about the controversies surrounding it. Cogs ("Poor old Ingrid!!", cogs from London, England, 2 February 2005) sees similarities between Rossellini and Bresson that I share. I agree with Cogs that Bresson is more interesting.
Stromboli is a showcase for Ingrid Bergman, who to my mind is easily the greatest actress in cinema. Karen's situation is Hellish. She marries to escape an Italian interment camp. She subsequently finds only misery with the desolate volcano-island that her fisherman-husband takes her to. The terrain is harsh and the locals are even worse. She discovers him to be overly simple and occasionally too beastly to bear. The finale reflects her desire for just a meager amount of happiness in such a world as this.
Visually Roberto Rossellini is superb. His visual aesthetics are unsentimental but never boring. His camera work is unobtrusive.
Two of the most memorable scenes feature a disturbing quotient of animal cruelty. In the first scene, a live rabbit is needlessly sacrificed by being placed near a ferret. Rossellini couldn't use stuffed animals. He has the audience, some of whom are animal lovers, suffer by showing the kill in detail. Of course, Rossellini is strengthening the distance between Ingrid and her fisherman husband, and identifying her with the suffering rabbit. However, I won't give Rossellini any credit for moving the story along with this thoughtless tactic.
The second scene is the justifiably famous tuna slaughter with real fisherman, nets and spears. I have eaten tuna all my life and haven't thought much where it comes from. Also, I have no doubt that all of the tuna that we see being harvested was ultimately eaten. To give Rossellini credit, he filmed it well--with Ingrid nearby witnessing it as if she was one of the unfortunate fish. I just don't think that it takes great storytelling skill to rely on animal slaughter to move an audience.
Two other scenes that are noteworthy is when Karen attempts to seduce a priest, and when she (apparently) seduces a lighthouse keeper. The character that Rosselini and Bergman are portraying is flawed, and very human. She's no saint, she's a woman with unfulfilled needs.
Overall, Stromboli is a must-see member of the Italian neo-realism canon. Very few films venture to depict life without false pretenses. Ingrid's Karen really suffers; and her actions make her a polarizing figure to viewers, isolating her further. Rossellini and Bergman are showing what life is really like as every member of the audience understands it.
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