She was cornered and she knew it...but she couldn't do anything about it...except one thing which could only lead to F-E-A-R!
Irene Wagner (Bergman), the wife of the prominent German scientist Professor Albert Wagner (Wieman), had been having an affair with Erich Baumann (Kreuger). She does not disclose this to her husband, hoping to preserve his innocence and their "perfect marriage". This fills her with anxiety and guilt. However, Johann Schultze (Mannhardt), Erich's jealous ex-girlfriend, learns about the affair and begins to blackmail Irene, turning Irene's psychological torture into a harsh reality. When Irene finds out that the extortion plot is truly an experiment in fear, she is driven into a homicidal/suicidal rage. The story is told in flashback by Irene after her death.
Voyage to Italy in Europa '51 clothes.
I thought that this film was going to take a dark turn.
An essential entry into the "women's film" genre, Rossellini's FEAR is a taut mystery that develops in large part to the director's unfliching attention to detail and pacing. The genre is defined mostly by academics rather than cinephiles, and it's an interesting distinction to be made. Films of this period (mid 30s-early 50s) often placed women as the featured protagonists, and it's through their voiceover that the drama proceeds. Key themes in these films involve questioning the women's choices, endangering a sense of "heightened sexuality," and ultimately securing their place in the natural environment of the domesticated milieu. Notable entries in the genre include Ophuls' LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN and Hitchcock's SUSPICION, both starring Joan Fontaine.
Rossellini, while best known as the father of neorealism, was really a hell of a storyteller, and this is kind of a perfect marriage between melodrama and film noir that uses each genre to enhance the other. Quite beautiful.