EUROPA ’51 (aka: THE GREATEST LOVE)
(director/writer: Roberto Rossellini; screenwriters: from a story by Roberto Rossellini/Sandro De Feo/Mario Pannunzio/Ivo Perilli/Brunello Rondi ; cinematographer: Aldo Tonti; editor: Iolanda Benvenuti; music: Renzo Rossellini; cast: Ingrid Bergman (Irene Girard), Alexander Knox (George Girard, the husband), Ettore Giannini (Andrea Casatti), Sandro Franchina (Michel), Teresa Pellati (Ines), Giulietta Masina (Passerotto), Tina Perna (Cesira, housekeeper), Marcella Rovena (Mrs. Puglisi); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Roberto Rossellini; Janus; 1952-Italy-dubbed in English)
“It’s Rossellini at his filmmaking worst but humanistic best.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
One of the postwar personal melodramas of Roberto Rossellini made with Ingrid Bergman such as “Stromboli,” “Fear” and “Voyage To Italy.” It’s a tedious and outdated psychological drama that is clumsily handled. It’s Rossellini at his filmmaking worst but humanistic best.
At a humdrum posh home dinner party the beautiful American society woman Irene Girard (Ingrid Bergman) and her businessman husband George (Alexander Knox) entertain family and friends. When sent to his room their troubled adolescent son Michel throws himself down the stairs, and while under an anesthetic tells the doctors how he wanted to die–as the doctors surmise he did the foolish act to get his mother’s attention. The frivolous and self-absorbed wealthy woman is in despair over her loss and through the help of leftist intellectual cousin Andrea (Ettore Giannini) begins helping the underprivileged. Her do-gooder charity work rubs her aloof materialistic hubby the wrong way and puts a strain on their marriage (he’s increasingly jealous of an affair between his wife and Andre). Things change for Irene in her way at looking at the world, as she’s unable to forgive herself for her child’s suicide. After offering financial help to the Puglisi family for prescription drugs for their seriously ill child, she then befriends a single mom of six children living in the slums (Giulietta Masina), a prostitute (Teresa Pellati), and a young bank thief. Soon she spends all her energy in helping the needy in the slums. Hubby uses Irene’s saintly work to show she’s cracked up and sends her to an insane asylum, as she’s abandoned by family and her bourgeois friends. Behind bars Irene at last finds freedom, as another inmate shouts “You’re not alone.”
Rossellini comments on the great gulf in postwar Rome between the wealthy and the poor, the spiritual and the materialistic, and the generous and the selfish. It shows how the postwar stresses, the deteriorating economic and social conditions dehumanized great parts of the population and left a feeling of alienation and hopelessness that affected everybody.
REVIEWED ON 2/28/2006 GRADE: C+ https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/