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12— Stromboli (1949)

1. Bergman, My Story , p. 1. All further references to this book will be included in the text proper. Any seemingly bizarre shifts of point of view in citations from this work are accounted for by the fact that it was written by the actress in conjunction with a professional writer, and it alternates from first to third person throughout. [BACK]

2. Bergman relates a fascinating series of contretemps that nearly prevented the actress and the director from ever getting together. An Italian she met in America told her she could reach Rossellini by writing to Minerva Studios. Then, the studio headquarters burnt down just after her letter arrived; sifting through the ashes, they found the letter, but when the studio tried to contact Rossellini, he kept hanging up, since he was in a dispute with them at the time. When the letter finally managed to get to him, he had to have his secretary translate it from English—and then asked her who Ingrid Bergman was. Once apprised of her international fame, he quickly responded with an urgent telegram on May 8, his birthday, that it was "absolutely true that I dreamed to make a film with you," and that a long letter would follow, detailing his plans. [BACK]

3. Faldini and Fofi, L'avventurosa storia , pp. 201, 203. One of the complications attending Rossellini's new interest in Bergman was the status of his current lover and star, Anna Magnani. Many are the stories of plates of spaghetti being thrown, of Rossellini cowering under hotel beds when Magnani found out. More important for cinema history is that Magnani sought her revenge by making her own version of Stromboli , called Vulcano , a rather undistinguished American film directed by William Dieterle on a neighboring island. It is a grandly overheated tale of love and deceit, with Magnani not in the romantic lead, interestingly enough, but rather playing the worldly-wise older woman who is trying to make her beautiful younger sister understand that the cad (Rossano Brazzi) will not marry her, as he says, but wants her for the white slave trade. She finally gets her way by seducing Brazzi, in the process permanently alienating her sister.

Though the specific details of the plot are thus quite a bit different, the harsh, denuded atmosphere of Vulcano and the hostile reception Magnani receives from the women when she returns to the island are embarrassingly close to the infinitely more subtle Stromboli , at least in spirit. In addition, Dieterle seems to share Rossellini's interest in documenting the daily lives of his characters at work. The film also includes another Rossellini favorite—the religious procession—as well as an ascent to the volcano and its eruption. Probably the most outrageous similarity is the tuna-fishing sequence, the idea for which seems to have been taken directly from Rossellini's film. Some footage is almost identical in the two versions, but in Dieterle's there is no attempt to relate the sequence thematically to the rest of the film. Brazzi says that after the filming session each evening, Magnani would go out to the end of the island and shout curses in the direction of Stromboli. Unfortunately, Magnani was not to get her wish of upstaging "la Bergman," because critics were hostile, finally, to both pictures. The ultimate irony is recounted by Jone Tuzzi, who had been spying for Rossellini on Dieterle's set: "At the premier of Vulcano , which came out before Stromboli , Magnani was expecting that everybody would be talking about her. Instead, the next morning the papers were filled with enormous headlines announcing that Bergman had given birth. So they even ruined her premier!" (Faldini and Fofi, L'avventurosa storia , p. 204). [BACK]

4. "A Panorama of History," 99. [BACK]

5. Dore Schary, Heyday (Boston: Little, Brown, 1979), p. 271. [BACK]

6. Robin Wood, "Rossellini," Film Comment , 10, no. 4 (July-August 1974), 11. [BACK]

7. BFI Dossier Number 8: Roberto Rossellini , p. 13. [BACK]

8. Borde and Bouissy, pp. 109-10. The moral truculence of this view is matched by the naïveté of its quaint opposite, expressed by Giuseppe Ferrara, that "the way traveled by Bergman obviously signifies the lacerations of the Catholic woman in the modern world" ("L'Opera di Roberto Rossellini," in Rossellini, Antonioni, Buñuel [Padua, Venice: Marsilio, 1973], p. 40). [BACK]

9. Jean-Claude Bonnet, "Roberto Rossellini ou le parti pris des choses," Cinématographe , no. 42 (January 1979), 22. Rossellini himself has said of the tuna sequence, "I tried to reproduce that eternal waiting under the sun, and the horribly tragic moment in which man kills: death which arrives unexpectedly after an extraordinary wait, abandoned, urgent, I would say almost loving , under the sun's rays." (Quoted in Claude Mauriac, L'Amour du cinéma [Paris: Albin Michel, 1954], p. 128; my emphasis.) [BACK]

10. All quotations are taken from tape recordings of the two versions' sound tracks. [BACK]

11. Adriano Aprà and Maurizio Ponzi, "An Interview With Roberto Rossellini," Screen , 14, no. 4 (Winter 1973-74), 114. (Interview originally appeared in Italian in 1965.) [BACK]

12. In Cinema 59 , no. 36 (May 1959), 50. (Note the suggestion of sadism in the desire to make Karin cry.) Bergman has given yet another reading of the ending, a reading that may have been influenced by her own circumstances. She told Robin Wood that the film "ended only with this woman looking at the sky; there was no end, which the public objected to. Of course, she would realize that there was a duty that she had to go back and have the child and live with her husband; but at the same time you don't know it, you have to guess it" ("Ingrid Bergman on Rossellini," Film Comment , 10, no. 4 [July-August 1974], 13). Complicating matters further is a lightweight piece of publicity fluff that appeared before the filming actually began. At this time the film was known as "Dopo l'uragano" (After the Hurricane), and the article gives a plot summary, the ending of which I include for its curiosity value: Karin tries to escape with the lighthouse keeper (in this version a fisherman), but a storm drives the boat back to land, where the husband catches up with them. A chase scene up the volcano follows between Antonio and Karin; Karin gets near the crater and starts a rock slide to kill her husband, but he escapes. At this point, Karin, exhausted, collapses into tears and an invocation to God. "Finally, pacified, she returns to the village and, made humble, goes back to her home." ("Ingrid come Karin," Cinema [Rome], no. 11 [March 31, 1949], 335). [BACK]

13. Wood, "Rossellini," 10. [BACK]

14. Andrew Sarris, "Beyond the Fringe," Film Culture (Spring 1969), 30. [BACK]

15. Bruno Torri, Cinema italiano: Dalla realtà alle metafore (Palermo: Palumbo, 1973), p. 45. [BACK]

16. "Je ne suis pas le père du néo-réalisme," interview with Henri Hall, Arts (June 16, 1954). [BACK]

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