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compelling sainthood story but a bit too melodramatic
SnoopyStyle26 June 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Irene (Ingrid Bergman) is a socialite married to George Girard (Alexander Knox). She neglects her son Michele and ignores his pleads. After his death, she suffers from guilt and starts helping people in need. Her communist cousin Andrea Casatti takes her to the other half of Rome. George is annoyed about her absences and accuses her of having an affair. She tries to help a young man and his parents. He had committed armed robbery and she pushes him to turn himself in. The police accuses her of helping him escape. George puts her in a mental asylum and abandons her. Her need to help others is declared insanity.

I like the idea of a saint in the modern world. The main drawback is that it's a little melodramatic at times. Ingrid Bergman is a glamorous star but her acting can sometimes be a little old school. This is a compelling story. The melodramatic touches may be better served with some simple grittiness. I rather she not break down in the asylum which would make her imprisonment more unjust.
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Beautiful Bergman, good acting, odd film
adrianovasconcelos8 August 2019
EUROPA 51 is an odd film. Irene (Bergman) is the wife and mother in a rich family, in affluent surroundings. Hers seems a perfect world, but she is too self-centered to realize that her son needs attention and love.

EUROPA 51 reflects the situation in Europe in 1951, six years after the end of WW II. Work is scarce. poverty is rife, the impersonality of industry is overwhelming society, but against this general background some personal problems stick out: Irene focuses on being an adroit host and having her house spotlessly clean; her husband wrongly fears that she is cheating on him with a journalist; and their son feels ignored and throws himself down a staircase, with fatal consequences.

Irene feels very guilty about losing her son, moves away from home, and descends into the underworld of poverty, helping people in the process. This is where a memorable performance surfaces, by Giuletta Masina, the wife of famous Italian director Federico Fellini, who injects life into the whole movie, in contrast with Irene's increasingly quiet soul.

The fact that her own husband and circle of friends see her as approaching madness reflects the tragedy that tends to pursue the individual who dares to show feelings and concerns in relation to his/her fellow neighbor. In this case, Irene helps a number of people, takes genuine interest in their predicaments, but her reward is questionable: she sees her husband leave her behind the bars of a psychiatric ward, feeling intolerably lonely, but common people see her as a saint.

Ultimately, it is a film in equal measure wise and wayward. Perhaps I cannot avoid looking at it with 21st Century eyes, and I lack knowledge about the mindset of Italian society in the early 1950s. Still, I had a problem attaching credibility to this film.

That said, Bergman was never more physically stunning than in this film, and her acting is first class.

Director Rossellini shows steely determination driving forward this unusual film. Photography is quite good. Script is generally competent. Acting by Bergman and Masina is excellent, the rest of the cast, Knox included, does not shine so much.

The film's main flaw is that it is overlong by some 20 minutes, but any Rossellini-Bergman collaboration deserves attentive watching.
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A supremely rich and moving work of art (spoilers!)
Kalaman17 October 2002
Warning: Spoilers
I saw Roberto Rossellini's "Europa '51" for the first time very recently and I can assure you it is without a question Rossellini's greatest film with Ingrid Bergman surpassing "Viaggio in Italia" and "Stromboli". It may well be Rossellini's greatest and most complex film, though I still have soft spot for "Paisan", "Germania, anno Zero", and "The Rise of Louis XIV"!

"Europa '51" is a supremely rich and moving work of art, highlighted by an extraordinary performance by Ingrid Bergman (perhaps her best ever)! It beautifully expresses the uncertainty, the despair,the search for hope at that time in history. Much like Rossellini's neo-realist classics, "Europa '51" shows only facts or raw physical reality, yet throughout the film Rossellini makes the viewer aware of something miraculous or spiritual. Rossellini deftly shows us the process of how a human being can transform from being a careless or ordinary to a gifted saint capable of changing the world. At first, Bergman's Irene is portrayed as hard working mother who has very little care for her son Michele and her people. Irene is shown chatting with her dinner guests who are apparently blind to the realities of outside world. But soon when Michele tries to commit suicide and ultimately dies, she is changed forever. Michele's suicide here is quite different from Edmund's in "Germania, anno Zero": Whereas Edmund's heartbreaking suicide is characterized by a sense of finality and lack of consolation, Michele's suicide in "Europa '51" provokes Irene's journey to sainthood. Irene's progression from ignorance to sainthood is truly a revelation. Rossellini's unique style, the use of eloquent close-ups, or the scene where Irene's face fills the frame as she looks at a female patient - serves as "framing" devices where we see Irene attaining something larger than life. Irene personifies a sense of change and endearment for her people; she suddenly starts to care for humanity, her eyes open to the harshness of the outside world. Though there is an apparent detachment in the drama much like most Rossellini's work, there is no question the viewer is invited to identify with Irene and share the development of her consciousness.

To me, the ending is hopeful and miraculous. Irene is behind bars, her friends come and recognize her as a saint. It is a shot full of beauty and eloquence. This is the only Rossellini film I saw that made me cry. I hope many people will see it and be moved by it as much as I did.
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The most Christian movie ever.
dbdumonteil30 August 2001
"Europa 51" may be the best of all the Bergman/Rosselini collaborations of the fifties,outshining such works as "Viaggio in Italia" or "Stromboli,terra de dio". There are two worlds in this god almighty universe:the one in which time is only a quiet river,and the one in which time is killing you.Irène (Bergman)belongs to the former one.Masina's character and Inès,the prostitute to the wrong side of town. When her son committed suicide,Irène was chatting,exchanging trivialities with her posh guests.Eaten with remorse,she realizes her taste for society life took the best of her and now it's too late!

One of her friends opens the gates of a then-unknown world for her:factories where men sweat ,streets where whores roam,slums where mothers strive to feed thir starving children.The man is a Marxist,and he tells Irene about a brand new world where justice and solidarity will be the golden rule.

However,Irene cannot subscribe to this ideology:"This world is not mine because it does not include Michel"-her late son".Beyond that point,the movie turns Christian;Marxist materialism cannot satisfy a desperate woman whose spiritual longing is intense.So she takes altruism to new limits,forgetting all about herself,becoming some kind of Mother Theresa.Christian,too Christian...Her family begins to think she 's lost her mind,and they locked her up in an insane asylum.

Is the ending optimistic or pessimistic?I would opt for the first epithet:behind her bars,Irène can see her new friends come and worship her as a saint.She's lost her wealth,but Michel's death was the beginning of an end for her.Through this redemption,she knows that now,this unfortunate boy forgave her

This is one of Bergman's unfairly forgotten performances.It is accessible and should appeal to a very large public.
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Modern sainthood
EdgarST2 May 2004
After filming stories about the resistance of the Italian people during the Fascist and Nazi regimes, and the story of a German child against the barren landscape of Berlin after the war, Roberto Rossellini made a movie about Francis of Assisi and started a love and work relationship with actress Ingrid Bergman. In his evolution to works like 'The Rise To Power of Louis XIV', he made a series of melodramas with Bergman, of which 'Stromboli' and 'Voyage To Italy' are always considered the most important. Add to that list this fine drama, in which bourgeois housewife Irene suffers a transformation when confronted with the misery of those who had not been benefited with the European 'economic miracle.' Considered a saint by those she helped (Giulietta Masina included), Rossellini makes quite obvious that Irene reached that state by detouring from the usual roads she took as the wife of a prominent industrialist (Alexander Knox.) Not only has she a Marxist cousin –who curiously does not preach his philosophy, but gives Irene advise whenever she talks about the misery she is discovering- but she also ventures into the slums, helps a single mother, a prostitute and a thief. The final section of the movie reminded me of 'María de mi corazón', a latter film written by Gabriel García Márquez, based on a real story. As in 'María…' there is neither opportunity nor chance to explain clearly what she's going through to husband or authorities, leading her to a dead end of desperation. Only sainthood will save her from the dehumanization around her.
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not Rossellini/Bergman best, but hard to ignore its pure heart
Quinoa198411 November 2014
Europa 51 has a big heart, this much is clear. It's a story where Rossellini and his collaborators want to pose a basic question: what does someone have to do, like literally do with their own hands and wills and TIME, actually taking time and energy out of their days, to make a difference for people? The question may be surrounded by an, arguably, heavy-handed set-up, where Ingrid Bergman plays an ambassador's wife in Italy, and their son, a bit of a spoiled mama's boy (or, no, maybe he's just the sensitive sort, you pick, but either way not dubbed particularly well), dies accidentally. Bergman's Irene can't stand herself for what has happened - all her time being a dilettante and not spending enough time with her son made this happen - and she can barely go on.

Someone, a friend who has Communist ties, tries to convince her that perhaps it's time to make a change amid this time of Societal Upheaval (in caps) as political sides are being more sharply drawn. She sees how people suffer, and a day at a factory basically makes her completely light-headed (a montage of images, if memory serves, makes this clear). She wants to help. Maybe if she puts her energies to positive use, to help others, she can... what, find some solace? Alleviate her guilt? Or that now she can't be a mother to her son - and there's not much effort between her and her husband to find love again - so why not be a Mother to others? It's a little more difficult than that, of course, which is the riding factor of conflict in the narrative.

Bergman plays this character with all of the beats just right. Early on in those first scenes with her and her son you might wonder whether the writing isn't totally clear - IS she being a bad mother, or is he just whining, or is it a little 'much' determining either, who knows - but she plays it just right, this woman in her life who has it all and doesn't have to worry about much. This includes hearing conversations about class struggles (this before she sees them first hand) and can barely comprehend it. How Bergman channels grief is even better, showing us a face that has the life totally drained out, and she is always *listening* as an actress too to what's around her, and is a strong listener which is key. Ironic then that many of these, almost all of them, are speaking Italian and are dubbed over - this includes Giuletta Masina, who plays a local housewife.

Not all of the writing is superb here, at least for me. It's surprisingly melodramatic in its last quarter as Irene is looked at as being completely crazy (possibly, borderline, criminal) in how she's helping these people, which includes keeping one man evading prosecution in her home. I have to wonder if this story could work today, though a filmmaker like Scorsese, one of Rossellini's disciples, sort of made his version with Bringing Out the Dead - a protagonist who is haunted by death and wants to make a difference. It is a very hard thing to be saintly, or just be a decent person when there are many, many indecent things and people that go about in this world, certainly in this context post-war, post-fascist-cum-Communist Italy.

There's a lot to digest here, even if some of it may come off as dated or simplistic. But, once again as with Stromboli, the combination of a director with a clear, very moral message, and an actress giving it her ALL (and it's a case where Bergman does give one of her best performances from this period, even if the film isn't), that you can watch it and be wrapped up in this woman's drama.
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Ingrid Bergman creates an astonishing character!
ECLIPSE19772 March 2005
I suppose that when "Europa '51" was going to be filmed there was a great professional mutual understanding between Rossellini (the director) and Ingrid Bergman (main actress). It's really astonishing the way Ingrid Bergman's face changes throughout the movie. She really looks like a "human God" (specially towards the end) just by looking at her expressions. If you have the opportunity of watching "Europa '51" twice, you will notice that her character in the beginning of the story, where Irene Girard (Ingrid Bergman) is the mother of a well-off family, is totally different from the last shots. I also like how Irene contrasts with the way of living of the poor children and working-women. Although Rossellini's movie is a bit lengthy, bearing in mind it was made in Italy in 1952, many events occur with short scenes perfectly connected obtaining a gorgeous dynamism as a whole. I'm almost sure that my favorite scene is the same as the majority of the people who watched "Europa '51". I refer to the moving ending of the story. I also like how the camera moves around capturing the contrast of expressions between the sick patients and Irene. I encourage everybody to watch this masterpiece, even twice!
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JohnSeal13 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Maybe it's the dubbing, or maybe it's the endless scenes of people crying, moaning or otherwise carrying on, but I found Europa '51 to be one of the most overwrought (and therefore annoying) films I've ever seen. The film starts out promisingly if familiarly, as mom Ingrid Bergman is too busy to spend time with her spoiled brat of a son (Sandro Franchina). Whilst mummy and daddy (bland Alexander Knox) entertain their guests at a dinner party, the youngster tries to kill himself, setting in motion a life changing series of events that find Bergman spending time showering compassion on the poor and needy. Spurred on by Communist newspaper editor Andrea (Ettore Giannini), she soon spends more time with the downtrodden than she does with her husband, who soon locks her up in an insane asylum for her troubles. Bergman plays the saint role to the hilt, echoing her 1948 role as Joan of Arc, and Rossellini does a fantastic job of lighting and filming her to best effect. Unfortunately, the script pounds its point home with ham-fisted subtlety, as Andrea and Mom take turns declaiming Marxist and Christian platitudes. By the final tear soaked scene, I had had more than my fill of these tiresome characters. A real step down for Rossellini as he stepped away from neo-realism and further embraced the mythical and mystical themes of 1950's Flowers of St. Francis.
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She cares for others...therefore she must be insane!
planktonrules31 August 2021
"Europa '51" is one of the most unique films I have seen and for that reason alone, it's well worth seeing.

The story begins oddly. A couple have a son they describe as 'unusually sensitive'. In reality, he clearly is mentally ill as he ends up killing himself even though he is a young boy. While very rare, such things do occur and not surprisingly it radically impacts on his parents. The father becomes more stoic and distant and the mother (Ingrid Bergman) begins to notice the plight of the poor and begins spending more and more time with them helping them with their problems. After a while, the wife is home less and less (possibly in response to her aloof husband) and he assumes she must be insane and acts accordingly.

The mother's reaction to grief and guilt about her son's death is the driving force in this film. But it's also interesting how doctors, priests and the police react to the lady's philanthropy. Overall, a tough film to describe but well acted and never dull.

By the way, the mother of six in the film (Giulietta Masina) was the real life wife of the famed Italian director, Fellini. Here she is quite good in this supporting role.
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Fascinating Bergman Failure
drednm8 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Ingrid Bergman and director Roberto Rossellini teamed for this fascinating (if long) look at an expatriate American woman in post-war Italy, the death of her son, and her movement toward "good works." Complex and multi-layered story has moments of brilliance and incorporates dashes of Communism, religious fervor, social work, love, and the frivolity of the rich all set against the "new Italy" of the early 1950s. Bergman looks great and gives a stunning performance, even if it reeks a little of Saint Joan. Alexander Knox (best known for Wilson and The Sea Wolf) is good as the cold-fish husband, and Giulietta Masina (La Strada) has a nice supporting role as an earth mother who gathers up stray kids. The rest of the cast was unknown to me. Opening sequences of social butterfly Bergman ignoring her needy son to entertain guests are quite good, as are various slum and factory scenes. The ending is quite disturbing and way too long.

Certainly a better film overall than Rossellini's Stromboli, and even though Bergman is good (as always) one can't help feel that Anna Magnani might have been a better "type" for the role, especially with Magnani's penchant for theatrics.

Anyway, it's an interesting and powerful study of a woman's metamorphosis, but to what we are never sure. Certainly worth a look.
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Deeply moving
zetes19 June 2012
The second of Ingrid Bergman's collaborations with Ingrid Bergman. Bergman plays a bourgeois woman whose son passes away. She blames herself, and starts looking for a way to rectify her guilt. She finds the answer in her newfound social conscience. Her life of luxury now seems horrid to her when there are so many suffering, and she dedicates her life to others. Meanwhile, her husband (Alexander Knox) doesn't understand it, and, after a particularly long absence when Bergman stays away to nurse a dying prostitute, he and the rest of her family decide to intervene. This is a powerful film about true charity, and it questions the motives of the bourgeois version of charity. This could very well be Ingrid Bergman's best performance. I thought it did underline its themes a bit too explicitly in its final act, and the very final scene went about three steps too far, as I see it. Giulietta Masina co-stars as a poor woman with six children whom Bergman befriends. I might be wrong, but it didn't sound like it was her voice (at least the voice we know from Fellini's films) dubbing this character.
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Powerful and emotional in all the right ways
blott2319-112 February 2021
At first I wasn't sure what the point was of Europa '51. It's a movie that sneaks up on you because the early scenes are not at all about the same thing as everything that comes after. I kept thinking this was going to be a family drama, or some kind of political drama, but I was wrong. I quite like the development of this plot, because it shows how traumatic events can help shape our lives, and change who we are. At the start of this film I didn't care all that much for Ingrid Bergman's character, and I was a bit frustrated at the prospect of following her for the full runtime of this movie. Little did I realize, there were big changes on the way, and that transition impacted me even more because I saw the emotional journey of this character from where she began to where it all ended. I loved the arc of her story, and I was surprised how relevant it seems to the life we all lead every single day.

I think the most impactful thing to me in Europa '51 is that the story made me introspective. I always applaud any film that can get me to the point where I'm contemplating the way I live my own life. The movie shows how our world can be a dark and cynical place, but it also shows the power of love within all that darkness. I was emotional in the climax, not only because I was touched by the way the protagonist had come to view her place in the world, but also because of the way others reacted to her views. It's interesting to see a film tackle this major question of morality without taking it down a religious path. Instead it shows how even those in organized religion can be resistant to the very love and kindness that they preach. Needless to say, I was energized by Europa '51, and found it to be a powerful film that I'd love to explore more and will probably quote to others in the future.
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A Study in Hypocrisy
brujavu15 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This film should make you think. As children (and even as adults), we are constantly being told to love our fellow man, that the least among us is the greatest in God's eye, that faith without acts is worthless, etc. But try to put these principles into practice, and you will be considered eccentric at best, and a lunatic at worst. When you try to live according to the values that everyone else around you is paying lip service to, you will find out what their real values are. How can your duty to your fellow man, your sense of wanting to ease the suffering of the sick, wounded or lonely, ever compete with your social obligations or your spouse's selfish needs for your company and perhaps even your servitude, even if he is perfectly capable of taking care of himself and would do well to join you in your efforts to help those less fortunate than yourself? Perhaps you can get support from your local clergyman? Don't count on it. He will be the first to sign the papers committing you to an insane asylum. You're better off living the high life and just quietly making a weekly contribution to his collection box! One of the most provocative movies of the 20th century.
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Europa '51
jboothmillard5 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I found this Italian neorealist film in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, I assumed it was going to be foreign language and subtitles, I'm relieved it was in English, I only remember it because of the leading actress, but I was hoping for something worthwhile, directed by Roberto Rossellini (Rome, Open City; Paisan, Journey to Italy). Basically Irene Girard (Ingrid Bergman) is an American society woman, she lives in post-war Rome with her husband, industrialist and ambassador George (Alexander Knox), and their son Michele (Sandro Franchina). They host so many parties that their son feels neglected, during a dinner party he constantly tries to get his mother's attention, but she is more interested in socialising with her guests and being a good host than an attentive mother. As a result, Michele attempts to commit suicide by falling several stories down a stairwell, fracturing his hip. At the hospital, Irene promises never to leave Michele and to be more attentive, but he dies soon after from a blood clot. Irene suffers severe depression and is bedridden for ten days, and after coming out she enlists the help of her cousin Andrea Casatti (Ettore Giannini) to help her overcome her grief. Andrea is a publisher and a Communist, she suggests to Irene she needs to see "the other Rome," and takes her to the poorer parts of the city. Andrea mentions a poor family whose son needs expensive medicine, Irene immediately decides to help, donating her money to help the child. Irene is struck by the dreadful living conditions in the slums. She meets Passerotto (Giulietta Masina), a penniless woman living in a shack by a river, she helps her care for her many ragged children. Irene also secures Passerotto a job in a factory job, and even fills in for her on the first day. But Irene is horrified by the working conditions at the factory, which she sees as slavery. Irene then cares for a prostitute who is dying of tuberculosis. A priest (Alfred Browne) befriends Irene at the hospital, but she backs away and does not reciprocate his belief in God. Irene has a long conversation with him about the "true mercies" of God while the poor suffer needlessly, and no one does anything about it. Irene spends less and less time at home as a result of helping these people, George and Irene's mother become concerned about her unexplained absences. George accuses Irene of having an affair with Andrea, which causes her to leave him. Irene is eventually picked up by police, she had told a boy to hand himself in after he had committed a theft, but she is arrested for helping him evade arrest. George overreacts to these events, Irene is shocked, but decides not to try an argue with him, he and the authorities decide that she needs to be put in a mental institution. Irene is finally brought before the review board on whether she will stay permanently in the hospital. It is decided that her philosophy of helping people and mental state is dangerous for the fragile post-war society, therefore she will be locked up permanently. The people she helped, and others she didn't, stand outside her cell window, praying to her as their new "patron saint." The final moment sees of Irene's face looking down at these people through the bars with a hint of a smile. Also starring Giulietta Masina as Passerotto and Teresa Pellati as Ines. Bergman gives an interesting performance as the superficial woman who may or may not going mad following a tragic loss, Knox is alright as her concerned husband, it is a simple story of a woman trying to find salvation by helping those less fortunate, so there are a good few melodramatic things going on, I admit it was slow and uneven at times, but an interesting enough drama. Worth watching!
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Greatest Love is Society's Failure ****
edwagreen16 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Excellent film dealing with the upper echelons of society that are unable to deal with a member of it who undergoes profound tragedy, leading her to live a life in total commitment to the impoverished.

Ingrid Bergman gets this calling when her son dies, and it's first looked upon as having taken totally socialistic or Communistic beliefs.

Alexander Knox plays her supposedly understanding husband, but soon relents when she is taken to an insane asylum

Giulietta Masina is as always excellent as the woman taking care of 6 children, but still having her own immoral agenda.

There are some scenes which remind me of Bergman's 1948 "Joan of Arc." I think the film was a great prelude to 1958's "The Inn of the 6th Happiness." Society was so fortunate to have Miss Bergman's appearance on screen.
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Wanted to like it more
counterrevolutionary15 March 2007
It's a bit melodramatic, but up until Irene's final conversation with Cassatti the Commie, *Europa '51* is a very interesting film, first about a pampered rich woman's reaction to her son's death, then about the difference between windy Marxist propaganda and real compassion.

However, at that point, Rossellini's original idea takes over: He wanted to make a film about what would happen if a truly saintly person ever showed up in the modern world. And he had a very good idea of what would happen--or at least a very insistent one. The people here obviously behave the way they do solely to make the point Rossellini wants to make, even when their behavior doesn't seem very plausible. In defter hands, such manipulation can work. Here, though, you can see the tracks Rossellini has rather clumsily laid down to move the story where he wants it to go.
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Mother/son theme gets soggy treatment...another interesting failure...
Doylenf29 August 2006
Poor Ingrid suffered and suffered once she went off to Italy, tired of the Hollywood glamor treatment. First it was suffering the torments of a volcanic island in STROMBOLI, an arty failure that would have killed the career of a less resilient actress. And now it's EUROPA 51, another tedious exercise in soggy sentiment.

Nor does the story do much for Alexander KNOX, in another thankless role as her long-suffering husband who tries to comfort her after the suicidal death of their young son. At least this one has better production values and a more coherent script than STROMBOLI.

Bergman is still attractive here, but moving toward a more matronly appearance as a rich society woman. She's never able to cope over the sudden loss of her son, despite attempts by a kindly male friend. "Sometimes I think I'm going out of my mind," she tells her husband. A portentous statement in a film that is totally without humor or grace, but it does give us a sense of where the story is going.

Bergman is soon motivated to help the poor in post-war Rome, but being a social worker with poor children doesn't improve her emotional health and from thereon the plot takes a turn for the worse.

The film's overall effect is that it's not sufficiently interesting to make into a project for a major star like Bergman. The film loses pace midway through the story as Bergman becomes more and more distraught and her husband suspects that she's two-timing him. The story goes downhill from there after she nurses a street-walker through her terminal illness. The final thread of plot has her husband needing to place her for observation in a mental asylum.

Ingrid suffers nobly through it all (over-compensating for the loss of her son) but it's no use. Not one of her best flicks, to put it mildly.

Trivia note: If she wanted neo-realism with mental illness, she might have been better off accepting the lead in THE SNAKE PIT when it was offered to her by director Anatole Litvak!! It would have done more for her career than EUROPA 51.

Summing up: Another bleak indiscretion of Rossellini and Bergman.
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Quite heavy stuff, for early '50's standards.
Boba_Fett11389 March 2012
Dramas have always been around, ever since the earliest days of film and throughout the decades they have kept on changing and evolving, basically just like every other movie genre. This movie however seems unlike any other movie from around the same time period really. It's more bold and daring with its themes and therefore also truly original to watch as well.

The movie truly surprised me with some of its themes and events. Some of these elements might still be considered to be shocking and controversial in movies now days.

And its strange but it's often strangely compelling to watch the downfall and disintegration of another human being, or in this case, a character on film. And this movie pretty much chronicles the slowly deteriorating live of a married upper-class woman. Just when you think things can't get any worse for her, it does get worse but without ever getting melodramatic by the way, which is, I believe, the movie its biggest accomplishment.

It's a more realistic and humane told movie, that gets you truly involved with all of its events and drama. It simply is one fine and also effective Italian drama, in that regard, by director Roberto Rossellini.

Like often, Rossellini casted his then wife Ingrid Bergman, for the lead role. She was a good female lead, for movies of this sort. She could be strong and confident but yet also at the same time still with a very vulnerable and emotional undertone to it. Just as was required for her role in this movie, which was the second collaboration between her and Rossellini.

A must-see for the Roberto Rossellini fans and for the lovers of the more old fashioned and very straightforward kind of dramas.

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a lofty, masochistic crucifixion is not fashionable and favourable any more
lasttimeisaw30 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
A Rossellini-Bergman Neo-realism drama takes place in the post-war Rome, Italy. Bergman plays Irene, an elegant socialite, the wife of a wealthy capitalist George Girard (Knox, in his cold, unimpressionable and unpleasant patina), together they have a young son Michele (Franchina), who feels constantly neglected by his parents, especially Irene, with whom he has spent the dreadful bombing days in England during WWII. Thus, on the occasion of one of the regular dinner gatherings hosted at home, Michele impulsively attempts a suicidal jump to grab his parents's attention, only later passes away from a blood clot.

Irene lapses into guilt and depression after the bereavement, she grows apart from George, who insists they should shake off the mourning period together. With the help of a close friend Andrea Casatti (Giannini), Irene is introduced for the first time to the hardships of the poverty-stricken living in "the other side of Rome", which has eluded her thus far. In her conscience-driven commitment, Irene throws herself in helping out those who are in urgent need: defraying the medicine expense of a deprived family to save a young boy's life; finding a job and standing in for a poor but spirited woman (Masina), who has six children to tend (three are her own kids, the rest are orphans); taking care of an ailing prostitute Ines (Pellati) in her last days. She transforms herself into a modern-day saint.

But a saint always invites persecution in an unjust world, George, holding his own grudge and gnawing jealousy (he accuses Irene of having an affair with Andrea) against her, cannot stand her constant absence in the household and refuses to take her side with respect to her newly occupied activities. When she conducts a misdemeanour to help a young criminal to evade arrest, George and his lawyer conspire to put her in a mental institution, thinking that a spell of solitude is what she needs the most to resume her social and familial duty as a wife of an important businessman. Irene doesn't defy the ungrounded internment, instead, it strengthens her unerring advocacy of a pure conception of altruism, an act superior of any religious beliefs or political slants. In the final stage of the film, she regains her peace and abides by her conviction in front the review board, who then collectively decides that she should be locked up there permanently, only those who have been aided by her affectionately call her their patron saint, her martyrdom is aptly consummated.

Bergman's performance is faultless, albeit the fact that her dialog was completely dubbed in post- production, it is a performance demands immeasurable investment from a thespian's emotional gamut (most of the time, those heart-rending moments are obtrusively intensified by Renzo Rossellini's highfalutin score), persistently expressive and emotive, her saintly appearance has taken shape through all the ordeal she experiences or witnesses, only Bergman can succeed in eliciting such powerful empathy without telegraphing an air of contrivance, Irene Girard is one of the absolute highlights in her prestigious career.

In the end of the day, what can new audience say about the central story? Is Irene's self-inflicted sacrifice is a truly commendable virtue? Or, in a more pragmatic stance, her incarceration basically blocks herself from practicing the noble cause to assist the impoverished, she might acquire the tranquility she particularly yearns for after the loss of her son, yet, if that is the case, it contradicts the whole concept of her irreproachable devotion of altruism, the vestige of selfishness betrays from her final gesture, it seems, in order to find the ultimate peace in herself, she barters it with the actual good deeds she would have done if she chooses to accept her old role as a stopgap. With her wealth and wisdom, there are many ways she can continue her philanthropic endeavour, if she really puts her mind into it. That's the divide between then and now, a lofty, masochistic crucifixion is not fashionable and favourable any more, especially there is a more sensible alternative one can choose, pragmatism prevails in today's standpoint.
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Ingrid Bergman at one of her bests
jrgirones8 May 2001
Ingrid Bergman highlights in this compelling melodrama about a burgeois mother who becomes aware of the unfortunate social classes after the loss of a son. The film goes a step further and can also be read as the social portrait of the European status quo after the Great War. Some dialogs may appear evident and simplistic as far as ideology is concerned, but the impressive conclusion and the characteristic Rossellini's style makes it one of the most interesting films of his director and a valuable document about psychological war consequences which hasn't loose relevance.
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Gilles Deleuze and Europa '51
ringfingers5 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I am surprised this film is so undervalued on IMDb, as it is the one that Gilles Deleuze talks about more than any other in Cinema 2 as one an example of what he calls the 'time-image', those postwar films in which rather than 'movement prevailing over time', 'time prevails over movement'. Basically what that means is that, because of the social and political transformations that emerged in the wake of WWII, people were essentially incapable of reacting to their new situations, yet for that reason also became that much *more* capable of attaining a shift in consciousness, and this was reflected in the cinema of the time. Rational, linear, sequential narratives, which tended to follow very cliché progressions are themselves overcome by this change, so that there often is no satisfying 'conclusion' to the story, the characters often being as much an 'audience' of unfolding events as we are. As he puts it, "if all the movement-images, perceptions, actions and affects underwent such an upheaval, was this not first of all because a new element burst on the scene which was to prevent perception being extended into action, in order to put it in contact with thought?" (1) So, this is what he says occurs in such Rosellini's 'Europa 51'; the character Irene, the bourgeois housewife , who in the course of the story, is lead by the suicide of her war-traumatized son to question the structure of her society as a whole. Thus, intrigued by the insight offered by her friend Andreas, she wanders aimlessly, but with the highest of awareness through the slums, the factories and other elements she had never taken into account previously: "her glances relinquish the practical function of a mistress who arranges things and beings, and pass through every state of an internal vision, affliction, compassion, love, happiness, acceptance, extending to the psychiatric hospital where she is locked up at the end of a new trial of Joan of Arc: she sees, she has learned to see" (2). It is not only the audience then, who become 'seers' (as opposed to 'agents' in the narrative structure that prevailed before the war), but the characters such as Irene are also a kind of 'audience', they perceive a world which they can barely conceive how to intervene in. When the character's motor capacities are short-circuited by overwhelming situations, says Deleuze, "he records rather than reacts. He is prey to a vision, pursued by it or pursuing it, rather than engaging in action" (3). Thus, just as each of us have sensory-motor patterns that make us turn away at the sight of something we would rather not see, so too does Irene, but because of her son's suicide she suffers a 'shock' and this habituated way of 'living' is interrupted so that just as she does not, *we* do not turn away either so that we become *seers*. 'Europa 51' I would say, breaks with what at the time was the prevailing emotional posture, particularly that of metaphor and cliché, which tend to direct our attention away from that which is difficult to comprehend. As Deleuze says, "we normally only perceive clichés. But if our sensory-motor schema jam or break, then a different type of image can appear: a pure optical-sound image, the whole image without metaphor, brings out the thing in itself, literally, in its excess of horror or beauty, in its radical or unjustifiable character, because it no longer has to be 'justified' for better or for worse…the factory creature gets up, and we can no longer say, 'Well, people have to work…' I thought I was seeing convicts: the factory is a prison, school is a prison, literally, not metaphorically. You do not have the image of a prison following one of a school: that would simply be pointing out a resemblance, a confused relation between two clear images. On the contrary, it is necessary to discover the separate elements and relations that elude us at the heart of an unclear image: to show how and in what sense school is a prison, housing estates are examples of prostitution, bankers killers, photographs tricks - literally, without metaphor" (21). What was especially interesting in regards to all of this was the reversal that occurs in the main character, (that is very similar to Joseph Losey's 'Mr. Klein') in which, once Irene comes to the factory and spends a day working there, says "I thought I was seeing convicts" to her friend Andreas, only for her to end up in a similar position, under the similarly knowing gaze of others. This matching is foreshadowed when the sound of the 'work whistle' that starts the workers' day sounds very much like the air raid siren she reminisces with her son about just before his death, and when her husband begins to worry that she is cheating on him with Andreas, her only response being that her love has expanded to encompass the entire world. By the end of the film, after being persecuted by this newly 'liberated' society for her beliefs, the situation has turned upside down, as we begin to see *her* as a kind of 'prisoner' also, though I will not say in what sense (so as to not cross the spoiler boundary). Her son's death mirrors that of her 'downfall', as well as how it is 'understood': as the doctor says of Michel early on, "unusually sensitive children are liable to go to extremes when they are upset". Despite the kind of 'do-gooder' mentality that prevails, which may be tiresome for some, I thought it was a quite powerful film and I can definitely see why it made its way into some of the most outstanding film theory texts out there.
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A matter of conscience
valadas31 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This movie deals really with problems that have to do simultaneously with individual conscience and social questions in this world of ours. This is too deep a theme to be efficiently put in cinema and the movie resents this. However that beautiful woman and great actress called Ingrid Bergman takes us more or less well into these complicated moral, psychological and social entanglements. A rich woman becomes after her son's (still a child) suicide, possessed by the feeling that she has been very selfish till then and must now care about the poor people's situation and problems. She leaves her home and her husband and starts helping necessitous persons financially and personally. She ends by being considered mentally sick and is interned by her family in a psychiatric clinic. This is the contradiction between our society and the radical altruists an aspect that the movie treats only maybe a bit superficially concentrating itself more on the protagonist's psychological problem. Not a masterpiece but a good film anyway.
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europa 51
mossgrymk28 December 2021
With the notable exception of the crappy haven't lived until you've heard Giulietta Messina talk like Judy Holliday...I liked the first two thirds of this film about a mother trying to find some purpose to her life following the death of her son, for which she is more than partially responsible. I like the way director and co writer Roberto Rossellini avoids overly demonizing the bourgeoisie or enobling the lower/working classes. Both groups sound rather banal and offer little comfort to Ingrid Bergman's tortured, guilty mom. And through Bergman's usual powerful performance you feel how she is trapped in her misery with no clear path to redemption. Socialism? Religion? Altruism? None seem to offer an expiation for her sin of neglect toward her son that caused him physically and fatally to harm himself. So far, so searingly and bleakly good. But then, in the third act, things proceed to fall apart but not in an artistically satisfying way as, following the rather operatic death of a street walker, Bergman is suddenly and unconvincingly involved in an attempted armed robbery and then goes to jail for abetting the robber and then somehow ends up in a prison psychiatric hospital and we've gone from gripping neo realism (i.e. The great scene at the factory which is a chilling version of "Modern Times") to an Italian version of "The Snake Pit" meets "Caged"... with poor dubbing. My advice to the viewer: Bail on this thing when the hooker checks out. B minus.
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The Greatest Love - for Ingrid
JLRMovieReviews29 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Ingrid Bergman stars in this film made with her director husband Roberto Rossellini about a well-off wife and mother who finds out how to really make a difference after tragedy strikes her family.

It does tend to get a little melodramatic, but, unlike some films that feel like two different halves, this manages to become something else in the second half without forcing it too much. Also, the writing and dialogue is very intelligent and moving, most of the time. A few lines may you feel like you're being preached at and it sometimes feels like the movie's trying too hard to be self-important for its own good. But overall, this has to be one of Ingrid Bergman's better foreign films she made with Rossellini.

Oh, and how did her husband manage to get her in there anyway? Just because she left him didn't make her crazy. Where she ultimately winds up may seem ridiculous and a little extreme to some viewers, but her great acting, as usual, and strong convictions makes the movie end on a high note, allowing the viewer see the bitter irony of life and sacrifice.
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Even the Likes of Bergman and Massina Can't Rescue This Turkey from the Mack Truck
frankwiener5 January 2022
Having read several glowing reviews of this film, I am not sure that I just watched the same movie. Did the enraptured authors see the same, disastrously dubbed version that I did or something else?

At least three post-World War II Italian films are among my all-time favorites, including De Sica's "Umberto D" and "Bicycle Thieves" and Fellini's "La Strada", which starred his amazing spouse, Giulietta Masina, who happens to appear here in the most bizarre cinematic circumstances.

Whatever director Rosselini wanted to accomplish here was totally destroyed by some of the worst English dubbing that I have ever witnessed in more than seven decades of movie viewing. Did Ms. Masina realize how mutilated her role would be when it was recited in pure Brooklynese by one of the bimbos "hosted" in "The Apartment" rented by Jack Lemmon? In fact, all of the Italian actors, which were most of them, spoke in the horribly dubbed English words of mechanical, robotic voices that very offensively rendered totally ludicrous a very serious movie on a very compelling subject. That, by itself, is very sad and very annoying.

As to the plot, why did guilt-ridden Irene (Bergman) agree to her transfer to an insane asylum? That, by itself, seriously weakened her character. While she was free of police custody and apparently a foreign citizen, she should have fled from her totally obtuse husband and from the entire country. True, this essential act would have eliminated the film from its existence, but would that have been a bad thing? Alexander Knox as the totally unsympathetic husband appeared in nearly 100 films over a span of more than 50 years and surely deserved much more than this awful role, which will never influence my high opinion of him.

Disastrous English dubbing, poor character development, overwrought, melodramatic dialogue, and tedious discourse of political and religious nature aside, what was the resolution in the end? Not that there needs to be a resolution to every story, but the entire presentation seemed pointless to me. Who did Irene help? Herself? Anyone else? What did she accomplish for the dying prostitute? When I suffered from a near fatal case of pneumonia, I barely had the energy to open my mouth, let alone shriek, seemingly without end, about the thieves in my awful neighborhood. At the time, the whereabouts of my wallet was the last thing on my exhausted, fever-ridden mind.

In honor of the much valued talent of Ingrid Bergman and Giulietta Masina, I gave this an extra star.
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