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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