Journey to Italy (Viaggio in Italia) (1954)
Director: Roberto Rossellini
Reflecting on this film, I am of the opinion that it is a reverse of Wyler's Roman Holiday. Italy, and the real Italy, is the background to both films: Rome for Wyler, Naples, Capri and Pompeii for Rossellini. These Italian cities background the relationship of two people, which is causing a crisis of purpose for each person. The two stories move in almost opposite directions, with Roman Holiday following a new couple getting close to each other (before parting ways); while in Journey to Italy, Alex and Katherine are drifting further apart, before realising their need for one another.
As I said, the ruins of Italy form the background to this 'story' about reconnection. The metaphor is not subtle, with the rubble and decay of the past following this disintegrating couple around. The black and white cinematography captures this historical past beautifully, particularly in the catacoombs scene, with the shadowy skulls all lined up in rows. The film is not without plot, but narrative does not drive the story. Instead the images take precedence, revealing character and theme to us. The seething pits that Katherine visits could mean several things in the narrative: the broiling tension between Alex and Katherine, the unsteady foundations of their life together, and the ugly, unseen things of life.
While not an entertaining film, Journey to Italy demonstrates the significance of location and metaphor in storytelling. Instead of relying on dialogue to thrash out the ideas, the lack of communication between the two requires the images to speak the unromantic reality of the characters.