R.R. places a deteriorating family amongst lovely scenery, like a proto-Eclisse or Climates. Ingrid Bergman and husband George Sanders are a bored rich couple in Naples waiting for an inheritance sale to come through – the first time they’ve been alone without friends and distractions since their marriage began eight years prior, and the solitude immediately reveals that they’re not very good together. Bergman is troubled and questioning, the titular voyager, taking meaningful tourist trips, while cruel drunken Sanders fucks off to Capri, hangs with some old acquaintances, tries to hook up with one of them then drives around with a prostitute. Finally back together, the couple admits it’s not working and plans divorce (in between two death scenes – Pompeii then a funeral), but a minute later they’re separated in the streets and run back into each other’s arms. This seems like an unhappy ending to me, but I’m not Italian so I wouldn’t know.
We visit Pompeii and unearth dead lovers, while Vesuvius lurks in the background, where I imagine Bergman’s clone is running from her husband Stromboli-style. Much mention from the locals about Bergman’s uncle Homer, late owner of the inherited property, how loved and respected he was. Our modern couple couldn’t seem to care less about love and respect, these small-town people and their concerns and customs.
Bergman is led around the area by Leslie Daniels, later of The Brain That Wouldn’t Die while Sanders hits on Maria Mauban, later of a Chabrol movie called Code Name: Tiger. Sanders had recently won an oscar as the gossip columnist narrator in All About Eve, and had as little respect for this film as his character had for his own circumstances, saying “the story of the film was never understood at any time by anyone, least of all the audience when the picture was released.” Ross nicked DP Enzo Serafin from the last few Antonioni films and had long stretches with no music, but it was brother Renzo’s most pleasant whenever it arrived. I liked it much more than Stromboli, not as much as Europa 51. For all R.R.’s supposed realism, I’ve been lately feeling that his movies’ endings ring false.
DVD commentarian Laura Mulvey calls it the last of the three “major” Rossellini/Bergman films, and the last of their marriage, “a story of social contrast and cultural shock,” and says that Renzo uses Neapolitan folk songs in his score. I can’t believe I didn’t catch this: the couple’s last name is Joyce, and Bergman tells a story of an admirer from her youth similar to the climax of James Joyce’s The Dead.