Journey to Italy ★★★★½

“In a certain sense, we’re all shipwrecked. You have to fight so hard to keep afloat.”

I’m sensing a theme among these postwar Italian directors. Rossellini is neither as harsh as Antonioni nor as gentle as Olmi, but he’s just as attuned to the quiet desperation of modern life. Journey to Italy’s remarkable power comes partly from how vividly realized its central couple is, as Bergman and Sanders both give excellent performances to bring life to their sharply written roles, but it also comes from the subtle but pervasive juxtaposition of their modern lives with the ancient country through which they find themselves wandering. Sanders, the quintessential workaholic modern man, wants to get back to England where he can be productive, while Bergman is enticed by old sculptures and ruins, the poetry her “brutish” husband scorns, the glimmers of spirituality he disdains. This is, by and large, a painful film, an incisive study of two people who are unable or unwilling to connect with each other, but in its final minutes, it only approaches something approaching hope through a faint evocation of the numinous, the religious.

“How can people believe in that? They’re like children.”
“Children are happy.”