When I moved to California I noticed that the earth shakes. Coming from Texas, where the land only moves if you drill it wrong, it is a profoundly odd feeling, and one that I still haven't gotten used to. Since this tectonic activity is on the mind I thought it would pair well with a review of Stromboli, terra di Dio (1950), Roberto Rossellini's dark, yet very rich and mysterious film.
Ingrid Bergman plays Karin, a displaced immigrant who marries an imprisoned local fisherman. Fleeing a "displaced persons" camp in Farfa, Italy, she marries a husband sight unseen to secure a safe, albeit temporary, future for herself. In reality, her husband Antonio (Mario Vitale) brings her to Stromboli, a volcanic island with a scattering of hovels perilously attached to its perimeter. This was to be her new home. Perhaps too predictably, her time spent on the island parallels the charring and grinding of the ground beneath her. She has trouble integrating with the southern Italian lifestyle consisting of fish, sun, and fish. Her tantrums become uncontrollable, and she turns to the village priest for consolation. Perhaps out of boredom and embarrassment for her new lifestyle, she redecorates the house to make it into a home. Unfortunately, her husband's latent disapproval of the feminization of his space brings her no respite.
In creating 'spheres' of personality for both Karin and the villagers, including the island itself, Rossellini's islanders seem shallow and simple. Even Antonio has a limited scope of understanding, thinking that by only providing fish for Karin, they would live happily, and that would be his extent of the marriage. Karin, however, also falls victim to the limits of her personality and often appears as a caged, delicate animal of little to no value to the community.
In the end, Karin faces the cruel irony of fleeing from Nazis only to find herself fleeing from Nature itself. As she stares into the volcano's deep crater, her body exposed as if in self-sacrifice, the existential sensation of giving in, hopelessness, and a new beginning come to mind. It is a hallmark of neorealismo, and a fine documentation of one of Italy's more interesting island communities.
Stromboli, terra di Dio. Dir. Roberto Rossellini. Berit Films/RKO Radio Pictures, 1950. 107 min.
Iordanova, Dina. "Modern Marriage on Stromboli." Criterion Collection, 2013. http://www.criterion.com/current/posts/2908-modern-marriage-on-stromboli