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Journey to Italy
IMDB Rating: 7.4/10 from votes
Release: 7 September 1954 (Italy) /

Journey to Italy

Genre: Drama, Romance
Director:
Stars: , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: Catherine and Alexander, wealthy and sophisticated, drive to Naples to dispose of a deceased uncle's villa. There's a coolness in their relationship and aspects of Naples add to the strain. She remembers a poet who loved her and died in the war; although she didn't love him, the memory underscores romance's absence from her life now. She tours the museums of Naples and Pompeii, immersing herself in the Neapolitan fascination with the dead and noticing how many women are pregnant; he idles on Capri, flirting with women but drawing back from adultery. With her, he's sarcastic; with him, she's critical. They talk of divorce. Will this foreign couple find insight and direction in Italy? Written by [email protected]

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Critic Reviews

The death of her uncles brings married couple Catherine and Alex to Naples in order that they might handle the sale of their inherited villa. From the first journey they make together, there is a real frost in the air and an apparent lack of love between them. After several difficult nights together where they acknowledge the tenuous state of their relationship and decide to use the holiday to spend time apart as opposed to being alone together. As Catherine heads off to catch up on the history and museums of the area while Alex idles around Capri, flirting and enjoying the friendly company of the young ladies he meets there.

It has been said that not a great deal happens in this film and those that say this are mostly correct – but they are not being critical of this fact, merely stating it. The basic plot is: couple comes to Italy with marriage problems and, in between fights, travel around the area – and that's about it in terms of definable action. However to simply leave it at that is to do this film a great injustice because so much of it is about more than just what is happening at any given moment and it is actually a beautifully shot and moving story of love within marriage. We join the story where Catherine and Alex (in a very well drawn marriage) have both come to the conclusion that their marriage must nearly be over. Neither really wants that but neither can manage to make things change; frustrated they go off and travel around Naples alone.

At this point the film balances two aspects with real skill. On one hand the film is a really intimate travel film, not just focusing on the sweeping scenery of the region but getting closer, looking at the specific histories, sites of interest and the people that reside there. Its strength is that it is never just about this because the scenery is just the backdrop for the two characters to discover themselves undergoing soul searching – but in a casual manner, not a heavy, gut wrenching fashion, more of a dawning realisation than anything else. This is subtly down and all the better for it; a convincing marriage that has been worn away to the point that the couple have simply forgotten to just be in love and instead have allowed other aspects of their relationship (the sarcasm, the niggling, the familiarity) to become the main part of their daily interactions. Those who have not been married or in a long-term relationship may not 'get' this film but I can assure you that it will likely be recognisable to you if you have been.

The chemistry between Sanders and Bergman is very convincing – I felt like there had been love between them but it had just been forgotten. Individually they both played their parts really well – there was no real 'eureka in the bathtub' moment until the end but, up till then, we had seen both the characters pick up little things along the way in a very able manner. The support cast were all good trimming round the edges but, in the version I saw, the dubbing into English was a little heavy at times and made it difficult to judge their performances. However the three stars here are all very good and drive the film without anybody else. Three stars? Sanders, Bergman and Naples itself.

Overall this is a slow film that has very little happening in it and, for that reason, it may frustrate some modern audiences who prefer their romantic dramas to have more spark and energy to it – however this is much more convincing for being subtle and elegant. The playing of Sanders and Bergman is pitch perfect and help keep our interest in their marriage alive, while the detail and sweep of Naples is well used as a suitable backdrop for them to rediscover their love against. If it were remade today it would be a massively different film, but this should be enjoyed for what it is – a great film that is of its time and should be enjoyed as such even if it requires at least a bit of patience.

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