Love Lost and Found in Journey to Italy

Although 1954 was still a year when divorce was considered unfathomable and marriage was something you simply endured regardless of how unhappy you were, Roberto Rossellini’s Journey to the Italy unabashedly explored the complexities of a relationship wrought with jealousy and detachment.

Katherine and Alexander, a couple headed for divorce
Katherine and Alexander, a couple headed for divorce
As a wealthy, childless couple, Alex (George Sanders) and Katherine Joyce (Ingrid Bergman) drive to Naples to settle the affairs of their recently deceased uncle. Their primary task is to tie up the loose end of selling his villa overlooking Capri and Mount Vesuvius. During their journey, they quickly realize they have little to say to each other and that their marriage has long been robotic.
Promotional poster for Viaggio in Italia
Promotional poster for Viaggio in Italia
When they both admit to one another that they’ve become strangers, neither of them is willing to make the attempt to mend what’s broken. Increasingly quarrelsome and prone to jealousy, both Alex and Katherine do their best to make the other feel like total shit. One night, Alex flirts shamelessly with another woman, leading Katherine to question his interest in having an affair. Likewise, Katherine is not without her own bag of tricks, spending an evening talking to a group of distinguished Italian diplomats.
Awkward small talk
Awkward small talk
The symbolism of death throughout the film is a testament to Rossellini’s brilliance as a filmmaker. In one scene, Katherine drives through town just after Alex has abandoned her to go to Capri. She stops the car when a carriage proceeds through the street containing a coffin. The metaphor for the death of her own relationship continues when she and Alex are taken to Pompeii to watch the unearthing of two bodies–a man and a woman who died at the exact same moment.
A passionate hatred
A passionate hatred
Illuminating the fine line between love and hate with razor sharp precision, Rossellini shows us that it’s always possible for someone you’ve known for a long period of time to take you by surprise.