Read the title of this post and remember that the review it entitles is supposed to be about a great, unforgettable film. The title tells you exactly the thing I found most interesting about this movie.
I’ve watched a certain amount of Roberto Rossellini’s filmography, which you can read about here and here, but Europa ’51 was a particularly interesting film to me because it was the first of his that moved away from war-related neorealism to look at a slightly more melodramatic subject.
I expected this to be a crazy celebration of life… or something. But it seemed like a film that wan’t entirely certain as to what it was trying to say and for that reason, lost its capacity to be memorable. It isn’t as dense as other melodramatic films. It isn’t as annoying as other films with political content. Even though it kills a child almost at the very beginning, it is neither particularly sad nor uplifting.
Apparently, Rossellini wanted to create a deep religious allegory, but if you want to know whether that was successful, you’ll likely need to ask someone who is much more religious than I am.
Yes, there are elements of this film which should make it great. There’s a scene with a cheerful woman who has too many kids and is still happy. There’s some interesting discussion about how work and jobs are glorified by the political movements of the time… but none of that is looked at in depth.
And the ending, which is framed as being one of those colossal injustices of which man, in his eternal blindness, is capable of, just seems like the right way for this particular character to end up… for her own good.
If Rossellini’s intent was to be cooler than everyone else and make audiences shrug, he was a genius. If, instead, he aimed at depth and memorability, he went wide of the mark.
But at least it’s easy to see how tall Bergman is. Maybe not shooting to make her co-stars seem taller is what Rossellini meant by realism.
Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer who generally writes things that are very much non-realistic. For his realist work, check out Love and Death, a series of linked stories that intertwine the lives of a brilliant cast of characters are they go though pivotal moments in their lives. You can check it out here.