Journey to Italy ★★★★

#26 of 100 in my Top 100 Directors Challenge

After eight years of marriage, Alexander 'Alex' Joyce (George Sanders) and his wife Katherine (Ingrid Bergman) scarcely know each other. They discover this strange truth while traveling together from England to Italy in their Rolls Royce to settle the estate of Alex's recently deceased uncle Homer near Naples.

Katherine thinks the time alone together may do them good, but it only accentuates their differences. He's all work and business. Italy's laid-back culture bores him. She's much more of a romantic spirit, interested in art, history and poetry. They go their separate ways to the point that he abandons her to see friends in Capri, while she visits museums and ancient ruins. Neither of them seems motivated to salvage the relationship.

Rossellini has a lot of fun manipulating the Italian landscape through which the Joyces pass. In almost every scene, someone is singing in the background without inhibition. The views he captures of Mount Vesuvius and the Gulf of Naples are stunning reminders of natural beauty. At one point, he has Katherine driving through town and seeing couples everywhere, followed by nannies and young mothers pushing prams ... a wonderful visual reminder of the primary focus of love and marriage.

Although Alex seems to have more interest in other women than his wife, when the opportunity comes to cheat with a prostitute, he begs off. But lest we think this is a turn toward reconciliation, when the opportunity comes for the Joyces to talk again, the "D" word comes up. It seems like an unhappy ending is in store. But Rossellini isn't quite done with this couple yet.

And now here's something I never experienced before, but I truly believe that Rossellini's "Bergman Trilogy" (Stromboli, Europe '51 and this film) is greater than the sum of its parts. Separately, they are all very good, but taken together, they form a four-star unit that must be seen, which is the basis for my rating here.

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