Journey to Italy
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Journey to Italy
Journey to Italy
Viaggio in Italia.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRoberto Rossellini
Produced byAdolfo Fossataro
Alfredo Guarini
Roberto Rossellini
Written byVitaliano Brancati
Roberto Rossellini
Based onDuo
by Colette
StarringIngrid Bergman
George Sanders
Music byRenzo Rossellini
CinematographyEnzo Serafin
Edited byJolanda Benvenuti
Distributed byTitanus Distribuzione
Release date
  • September 7, 1954 (1954-09-07)
Running time
105 minutes (Italy)
88 minutes (France)
80 minutes (US)
70 minutes (UK)
LanguageEnglish (production)
Italian (original release)

Journey to Italy, also known as Voyage to Italy,[1] is a 1954 drama film directed by Roberto Rossellini. Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders play Katherine and Alex Joyce, an English married couple whose trip to Italy unexpectedly undermines their marriage. The film was written by Rossellini and Vitaliano Brancati, but is loosely based on the novel Duo by Colette. Although the film was an Italian production, its dialogue was in English. The first theatrical release was in Italy under the title Viaggio in Italia; the dialogue had been dubbed into Italian.

Journey to Italy is considered by many to be Rossellini's masterpiece,[2][3][4] as well as a seminal work of modernist cinema due to its loose storytelling. In 2012, it was listed by Sight & Sound magazine as one of the fifty greatest films ever made.[5]


Alex and Katherine Joyce (Sanders and Bergman) are a couple from England who have traveled by car to Italy to sell a villa near Naples that they have recently inherited from "Uncle Homer". The trip is intended as a vacation for Alex, who is a workaholic businessman given to brusqueness and sarcasm. Katherine is more sensitive, and the journey has evoked poignant memories of a poet friend, Charles Lewington, now deceased.

Much of the running time of Voyage to Italy is uneventful. The opening scene shows Katherine and Alex Joyce simply conversing as they drive through the Italian countryside; the only incident is momentary, when they slow for a herd of cattle in the road. Shortly after they arrive in Naples, the film follows them as they are given a lengthy, room-by-room tour of Uncle Homer's villa by its caretakers, Tony and Natalie Burton. The film subsequently follows Katherine on several days as she tours Naples without Alex. On the third day of her visit, she tours the large, ancient statues at the Naples Museum. On the sixth day she visits the Phlegraean Fields with their volcanic curiosities. On another day she accompanies Natalie Burton to the Fontanelle cemetery, with its stacks of unidentified, disinterred human skulls that are adopted and honored by local people.[6]

Within days of their arrival, the couple's relationship becomes strained amid mutual misunderstandings and a degree of jealousy on both sides. Alex dismisses Lewington as "a fool". The two begin to spend their days separately, and Alex takes a side trip to the island of Capri. On the last day of the film, they impetuously agree to divorce. Tony Burton suddenly appears, insisting that they go with him to Pompeii for an extraordinary opportunity. There the three of them witness the discovery of another couple who had been buried in ashes during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius nearly two thousand years earlier.[7] Katherine is profoundly disturbed, and she and Alex leave Pompeii only to be caught up in the procession for Saint Gennaro in Naples.[8] The afternoon's experiences -- seemingly miraculously -- rekindle their love for each other. Katherine asks Alex, "Tell me that you love me!," and he responds "Well, if I do, will you promise not to take advantage of me?" The film concludes with a crane shot showing the continuing religious procession.


  • Ingrid Bergman as Katherine Joyce. Bergman, a famed actress of the era, was then married to Rossellini. Journey to Italy was her third film with him. Some critics have suggested that their films together have autobiographical elements drawn from Bergman's and Rossellini's lives and their relationship.[1]
  • George Sanders as Alexander 'Alex' Joyce (credited as Georges Sanders). Sanders was a well-known actor of the era who had won an Academy Award in 1951.
  • Maria Mauban as Marie (credited as Marie Mauban).
  • Anna Proclemer as a prostitute. Proclemer, a noted actress, was married at the time to the film's screenwriter, Vitaliano Brancati.
  • Paul Muller as Paul Dupont.
  • Leslie Daniels as Tony Burton (billed as Anthony La Penna). Burton is an Englishman living in Italy and married to Natalie. The Burtons are acting as caretakers for Uncle Homer's villa.
  • Natalia Ray as Natalie Burton (credited as Natalia Rai). Natalie is an Italian woman married to Tony.
  • Jackie Frost as Betty.


The film originally was intended as an adaptation of the French writer Colette's novel Duo; Rossellini was, however, unable to get the rights to the novel, and was forced to draft a screenplay that differed sufficiently from the novel.[1] Rossellini and his co-author, Vitaliano Brancati, also apparently drew on a script entitled New Vine, by Antonio Pietrangeli, which described the argumentative relationship of an English couple touring Naples in a Jaguar automobile.[8] The film's storyline about Charles Lewington, the deceased poet who'd been in love with Katherine Joyce, is considered to be an allusion to the short story "The Dead" by James Joyce.[1][6][9]

Rossellini's directorial style was very unusual. The actors did not receive their lines until shortly before filming of a particular scene, leaving them little if any chance to prepare or rehearse.[1] George Sanders' autobiography Memoirs of a Professional Cad (1960) tellingly describes Rossellini's methods of direction and their effects on the actors and production team.[10]

Theatrical releases

The film was completed in 1953, but it took 18 months to arrange for distribution of the film in Italy.[8] It was released in 1954 with the title Viaggio in Italia, with a running time of 105 minutes.[11] The receipts and critical reception were poor. The film had been dubbed into Italian, and now is used as an example of "monstrous" difficulties with dubbing.[12] In April 1955, an 88-minute version of the film, in English, was released in France as L'Amour est le plus fort.[13] There was little interest in the film in the U.S. and Britain despite the fact that the film had been made in English with noted actors in the leads. An American version, with an 80-minute running time, had a limited release in 1955 with the title Strangers.[14] In Britain, a cut version (70 minutes) was released in 1958 under the title The Lonely Woman.[15] A 97-minute Italian language version with English subtitles was released at some point; it isn't clear why this version was created, given that the film's dialogue was in English, and the Italian language version had been dubbed from that.[16]

Reception and significance

Journey to Italy performed badly at the box office and was largely a critical failure.[17] It had a profound influence, however, on New Wave filmmakers working in the 1950s and 1960s. As described six decades later by film critic John Patterson: "French critics at the Cahiers du Cinéma - the likes of Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Rivette, François Truffaut and Claude Chabrol - all saw it as the moment when poetic cinema grew up and became indisputably modern. Journey to Italy is thus one wellspring of the French New Wave. A film convulsed by themes of sterility, petrification, pregnancy and eternity, it finds its echo in such death-haunted Nouvelle Vague masterpieces as Chabrol's Le Boucher and Truffaut's La Chambre Verte."[18] Filmmaker Martin Scorsese talks about the film and his impressions of it in his own film My Voyage to Italy (1999).[1]

Today, Journey to Italy generally is regarded as a landmark film. Critic Geoff Andrew referred to it as "a key stepping stone on the path to modern cinema" in its shift away from neorealism,[19] and A.O. Scott notes Rossellini's "way of dissolving narrative into atmosphere, of locating drama in the unspoken inner lives of his characters";[20] because Alex and Katherine are not developed through a conventional plot but instead spend lengthy amounts of time in boredom and dejection, the film frequently is cited as a major influence on the dramas of Michelangelo Antonioni and later works about modern malaise.[21] The film is ranked 41st in the 2012 survey of film critics conducted by Sight & Sound magazine, under the auspices of the British Film Institute.[5] It is ranked 71st in an overall aggregation of several "greatest films" surveys.[22]

Home media and restoration

There have been several releases of Journey to Italy for home video. In 2013, the Criterion Collection released a newly restored version as a region 1 DVD.[23] This version is based on restoration work at Cineteca di Bologna and Cinecittà Luce [it], which was reviewed very favorably by Glenn Erickson.[24] An earlier DVD version was released in 2003 as a region 2 DVD by the British Film Institute.[25] It was reviewed then by Gary Tooze.[26] A VHS tape version was released in 1992.[27]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Brunette, Peter (1996). "Voyage to Italy (1953)". Roberto Rossellini. University of California Press. pp. 155-176. ISBN 978-0-520-20053-1. Brunette's chapter incorporates a lengthy, close reading of the film.
  2. ^ Brunette, Peter (1 January 1990). "Visual Motifs in Rosselini's Voyage to Italy". In Lehman, Peter (ed.). Close Viewings: An Anthology of New Film Criticism. University Press of Florida. p. 39. ISBN 978-0-8130-0967-4.
  3. ^ Kehr, Dave. "Voyage to Italy". Chicago Reader. Roberto Rossellini's finest fiction film (1953), and unmistakably one of the great achievements of the art.
  4. ^ Schwartz, Dennis (February 9, 2006). "'Voyage in Italy' (Viaggio in Italia)". Ozus' World Cinema Reviews. A magical love story that is beautifully told without one false note. It makes the best of its dead time, more so than any other film of this high quality has ever done before. Its passionate conclusion is still moving even at this date some fifty years after its release. This is Roberto Rossellini's finest film (his others with Ingrid Bergman as his wife include Joan of Arc at the Stake-1954 and Fear-1954).
  5. ^ a b Christie, Ian, ed. (1 August 2012). "The Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time". Sight & Sound. British Film Institute (September 2012). Retrieved 2013.
  6. ^ a b Mulvey, Laura (2006). "Roberto Rossellini's Journey to Italy/Viaggio in Italia (1953)". Death 24X a second: Stillness and the Moving Image. Reaktion Books. pp. 104-122. ISBN 9781861892638. OCLC 61529345. it was dismissed on release, with only a few critics understanding that it was carefully constructed to undermine conventions of event-driven narrative and open out space and time for thought. The places included in the film were carefully chosen for their resonances and associations, from which Rossellini creates an implicit, idiosyncratic, commentary on the cinema, its reality, its indexical quality, as well as its uncanny ability to preserve light. Mulvey identifies several of the locales near Naples used in filming.
  7. ^ Giuseppe Forelli discovered that one could make plaster castings of the cavities left by the bodies of victims; the castings preserve the form of the body and its bones. See Nappo, Salvatore Ciro (February 17, 2011). "Pompeii: Its Discovery and Preservation". BBC. Retrieved 2016.
  8. ^ a b c Gallagher, Tag (1998). "Voyage in Italy". The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini. Da Capo Press. p. 397. ISBN 9780306808739. See also a synopsis of Gallagher's chapter: Dixon, Wheeler Winston (July 2009). "Voyage to Italy". Senses of Cinema (51).
  9. ^ Grønstad, Asbjørn (2002). "The Gaze of Tiresias: Joyce, Rossellini and the Iconology of "The Dead"". Nordic Journal of English Studies. 1 (2): 233-248. doi:10.35360/njes.115. Rossellini's film uses "The Dead" as a point of departure for a creative contemplation of the ideas encountered in the short story.
  10. ^ Sanders, George (1960). Memoirs of a Professional Cad. New York: Putnam. OCLC 475650.
  11. ^ Sadoul, Georges; Morris, Peter (1972). Dictionary of Films. Peter Morris (translation and editing). University of California Press. p. 402. ISBN 9780520021525. OCLC 490700. This book is a translation of Dictionnaire des Film (in French). Éditions du Seuil. 1965. OCLC 1934530.
  12. ^ O'Sullivan, C. (2011). Translating Popular Film. Springer. p. 184. ISBN 9780230317543.
  13. ^ "Viaggio in Italia - Fiche Film". Bibliothèque du film [fr] (BiFi) (in French). Retrieved .
  14. ^ "Index to Motion Picture Credits - 'Strangers'". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved . Los Angeles release August 31, 1955 (80 minutes).
  15. ^ Nowell-Smith, Geoffrey (2007). "The American Dream in Postwar Italy". In Cooke, P. (ed.). World Cinema's 'Dialogues' With Hollywood. Springer. p. 129. ISBN 9780230223189.
  16. ^ Viaggio in Italia (16 mm film)|format= requires |url= (help) (in Italian). OCLC 71358738.
  17. ^ Nelmes, Jill, ed. (2003). An Introduction to Film Studies. Psychology Press. p. 438. ISBN 0415262682.
  18. ^ Patterson, John (May 5, 2013). "Journey To Italy: the Italian film that kickstarted the French New Wave". The Guardian.
  19. ^ Andrew, Geoff. "Realer than realism: Journey to Italy". British Film Institute. Retrieved 2017.
  20. ^ Scott, A. O. (April 30, 2013). "Revisiting a Rossellini Classic to Find Resonances of Today". The New York Times. Retrieved 2017.
  21. ^ "Journey to Italy (1954)". British Film Institute. Retrieved 2017.
  22. ^ Georgaris, Bill (ed.). "1,000 Greatest Films (Full List)". Retrieved 2016. "77. Voyage in Italy (Rossellini, 1953)"
  23. ^ Journey to Italy (DVD (region 1)). The Criterion Collection. 2013. ISBN 9781604657494. OCLC 857774031. The feature film runs 85 minutes. Also released as a Blu-ray disk.
  24. ^ Erickson, Glenn (September 25, 2013). "3 Films By Roberto Rossellini starring Ingrid Bergman - Savant Blu-ray Review". DVD Savant.
  25. ^ Journey to Italy (DVD (region 2))|format= requires |url= (help). The British Film Institute (BFI). 2003. OCLC 747191196. The feature film runs 80 minutes.
  26. ^ Tooze, Gary (2003). "Voyage to Italy". DVD Beaver.
  27. ^ Voyage in Italy (VHS tape (NTSC))|format= requires |url= (help). Connoisseur/Meridian. 1992. OCLC 26441934. The feature film runs 80 minutes.

Further reading

  • Brody, Richard (August 31, 2015). "Voyage to Italy". The New Yorker. One of the most quietly revolutionary works in the history of cinema, Roberto Rossellini's third feature starring Ingrid Bergman (his wife at the time), from 1953, turns romantic melodrama into intellectual adventure. ... From Rossellini's example, the young French New Wave critics learned to fuse studio style with documentary methods, to make high-relief drama on a low budget.
  • Callahan, Dan (November 15, 2006). "You Must Change Your Life: The Films of Roberto Rossellini & Ingrid Bergman". Slant. Voyage in Italy, their third movie together, is a key work in the history of film: thorny, alienated and alienating, it inaugurated the exquisite unease of the sixties art film (much to Rossellini's later dismay). ... Roberto's brother Renzo composed the scores for most of his films, and Renzo's work adds subtle, but extreme emotion to the often pitiless intellectual rigor of his brother's movies. His ominous music follows Katherine as she tours many a museum and is assailed again and again by the taunting sensuality of the past. Heat and leisure strip this couple of every defense mechanism they had, and their sudden uncertainty leads them to question everything, ...
  • Scott, A. O. (April 30, 2013). "Revisiting a Rossellini Classic to Find Resonances of Today". The New York Times. In its time, this film represented the arrival of something new, and even now it can feel like a bulletin from the future. A contemporary, highly favorable review.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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