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14— Europa '51 (1952)

1. "Ingrid Bergman on Rossellini," p. 13. [BACK]

2. Claude Mauriac has quoted a long passage from Weil, a passage whose source he does not identify, in his discussion of Europa '51 . Its emotional texture is so close to that of the scene in the film that it seems useful to translate it here:

My body and soul were in shreds. This contact with unhappiness had killed my youth. . . . I knew that there was a lot of unhappiness in the world, I was even obsessed by it; but I had never experienced it in such a prolonged way. Coming out of the factory, confused in everyone's eyes, including my own, with the anonymous masses, the unhappiness of the others went right into my flesh and into my soul. Nothing separated me from it, for I had actually forgotten my past and looked forward to no future, and I found it difficult to imagine the possibility of surviving these trials. What I had lived through had marked me in such a profound way that even today, when any human being, whoever he is, in whatever circumstances, speaks to me without brutality, I can't avoid the impression that there must be some mistake and that the mistake will soon disappear. In that place I received forever the mark of slavery, like the mark from the red-hot iron the Romans put on their most despised slave. Ever since, I have always thought of myself as a slave ( L'Amour du cinéma , p. 115).

One further source that Rossellini has mentioned in one or two obscure interviews, without elaborating on it, is an early book of Herbert Marcuse's, presumably Reason and Revolution (1941). Rossellini said that while the film, of course, was not based on the book, it nevertheless made him think about things "differently." [BACK]

3. Guarner, Roberto Rossellini , p. 51. [BACK]

4. Maurizio Ponzi, "Due o tre cose su Roberto Rossellini," Cinema e film , 1, no. 2 (Spring 1967), 25. [BACK]

5. "A Discussion of Neo-Realism," 76. [BACK]

6. Two years after the interview with Mario Verdone quoted above, Rossellini was telling François Truffaut and Eric Rohmer the story of the scientist friend who was forced to rule on whether to send a woman to an insane asylum. The scientist told Rossellini that he had to "dissociate the human being from the scientist even in myself; science has its limits, it must calculate, see, measure, regulate itself according to that which it has conquered, that which it knows. You must completely forget everything that's beyond these limits." Rossellini's reponse to his story was, "In a century which is dominated by science—and we know that it's imperfect and has such atrocious limits—I don't know to what point it's right to trust in it. That's what the film's about" (Interview, Cahiers du cinéma [1954], 8). In the years to come, he will exactly reverse this early position. [BACK]

7. The film also shares in the dynamic we have seen at work in the earlier films, where an artifact (such as a fresco) or the words themselves provide an ontological bridge between the present and the past because they are of the past (not merely a representation of it) and yet in the present as well. Here, in a complex way, we can think of this very film as being an equivalent artifact that, like all films, exists in both the past and the present and thus mediates between them. [BACK]

8. Other objects also function as blatant visual symbols: the contrite mother's tears at the hospital clash with the luxuriance of her mink coat; later the same contrast is enacted in the family's Cadillac, particularly ostentatious and out of place in the crowded streets of Rome's teeming poor. [BACK]

9. The scene in which Irene is told of the boy's death is very powerful. When she is nearly prostrate, the camera catches her face against a starkly white pillow, a composition that resonates for mysterious reasons. Her husband says that "life goes on," refusing by that remark to take any blame for what has happened. (Earlier, the "competent" father says, "I've solved many problems," but confesses that the unhappiness of his son is one that he has not been able to "solve.") [BACK]

10. This scene in the car is iconographically important, for it marks the beginning of an extensive use of this visual and spatial motif that becomes central in Voyage to Italy and in Fear , functioning far beyond its obvious utility as visual and narrative punctuation between other spatial locations. [BACK]

11. This additional method of calling the "naturalness" of the cinematic representation into question through the interjection of the "real" into the "realistic" can also be considered in the light of Lacanian psychoanalysis. Just as Holbein's anamorphic death's head in his painting The Ambassadors calls into question the wholeness of vision by making it dependent on a particular point of view, so, too, throughout his career Rossellini allows shots of nonprofessional actors looking directly into the camera to stand, even though they blatantly challenge the film's illusionism. [BACK]

12. Eric Rohmer, "Europa '51," Cahiers du cinéma , no. 25 (July 1953), 45. [BACK]

13. "We are prisoners . . . of our desire to be in harmony with everything and everyone. Worshippers of the rule, we live in terror of one day becoming the exception." Because Irene becomes a nonconformist, says Rossellini, she is considered mad. "She doesn't recognize the fiction of honesty, like all the others? Then she's crazy! She doesn't accept the hypocrisy of charity beneficial to oneself, as the others accept it? Then she's crazy! . . . Crazy, everyone outside of political parties! Crazy, everyone outside of churches! Crazy, everyone outside the bounds of conformity!" ( Rassegna del film [February 1, 1952], quoted in Borde and Bouissy, Le Néo-réalisme italien , p. 110). [BACK]

14. Guido Aristarco, "Europa '51," Cinema nuovo , 1, no. 1 (December 15, 1952). Reprinted in Antologia di Cinema Nuovo 1952-58 , p. 685. [BACK]

15. Gianni Aiello, Il cinema italiano negli ultimi vent'anni (Cremona: Gianni Mangiarotti Editori, 1964), p. 32. [BACK]

16. Rondolino, Rossellini , p. 81. André Bazin, in a little-known 1953 review of the film, defends it against the charge of reactionary politics and then, as might be expected, moves toward a phenomenological and spiritual reading of the film. In the process, he attempts to incorporate what I have been calling Rossellini's expressionism or stylization into a larger conception of "realism." His remarks are worth quoting in full:

Rossellini doesn't have his actors act , he doesn't make them express this or that feeling; he only makes them be a certain way in front of the camera. In such a miseen-scène, the placement of the characters, the way they walk, their movements and gestures are much more important than the feelings shown on their faces, and even more important than what they say. . . .

That such a mise-en-scène requires a highly evolved stylization is obvious in Europa '51 . This realism is completely the opposite of what is "taken on the spot": a strict and austere language, stripped sometimes to the point of asceticism. At this point, neorealism discovers classic abstraction and its generality. Whence this apparent paradox: the correct version of the film is not the one dubbed into Italian, but the English version, which has the maximum number of original voices. At the limit of this realism the exactitude of exterior social reality becomes unimportant. Roman street children can speak English without our thinking that it's unconvincing. Reality, by the tricks of style, renews itself through the conventions of art.

(André Bazin et al., Cinéma 53 à travers le monde [Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1954], pp. 88-89). [BACK]

17. Ponzi, "Due o tre cose," p. 25. [BACK]

18. Dibattito su Rossellini , ed. Menon, p. 87. [BACK]

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