FEAR (1954)


(director/writer: Roberto Rossellini; screenwriters: Sergio Amidei/from the novel by Stefan Zweig; cinematographers: Carlo Carlini/Heinz Schnackertz; editors: Jolanda Benvenuti/Walter Boos; music: Renzo Rossellini; cast: Ingrid Bergman (Irene Wagner), Mathias Wieman (Professor Albert Wagner), Renate Mannhardt (Luisa Vidor, alias Joanne Schultze), Kurt Kreuger (Erich Baumann), Elise Aulinger (Haushaelterin), Elise Aulinger (Marta, the Housekeeper); Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Herman Millakowsky; Henwood Video; 1954-Italy/W. Ger-dubbed in English)

“It takes on the shadowy look of film noir with its German expressionist style.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This rarely seen film, much ignored since its unsuccessful release, is based on the book by Stefan Zweig. It completes the cycle of three films Roberto Rossellini (“Europa 51″/”Voyage in Italy”) directs with his then wife Ingrid Bergman. They were all personal films, with this being the weakest despite an excellent premise of a woman driven to suicide as she lives in dread of a husband she madly loves finding out about her affair. It takes on the shadowy look of film noir with its German expressionist style and protagonist caught in a seemingly never ending dark psychological web. It plays as a nightmare, leaving a lingering bad aftertaste as it settles in and becomes fixated in moralizing about the virtue of telling the truth no matter the consequences. It’s Rossellini at his weakest, when he preaches to the viewer about morality and finds a way to say that adultery might not be the worst thing in the world to overcome.

It opens with Irene Wagner (Ingrid Bergman) telling her boyfriend Erich Baumann (Kurt Kreuger) that their affair is over, that she loves her research scientist husband Albert Wagner (Mathias Wieman). The professor is working on a miracle drug in his plant to find a cure for a disease plaguing the world. Irene, who runs the business end of the lab, becomes frightened when confronted by pretty redhead Joanne Schultze (Renate Mannhardt), Erich’s ex-girlfriend, who blames Irene for their breakup. Soon Irene is being blackmailed, but after paying the woman small amounts a few times, Joanne snatches Irene’s diamond wedding ring during a concert and refuses to return it unless paid the impossible sum of twenty thousand marks.

The damsel-in-distress melodrama has a plot twist that puts an unconvincing happy spin to such a bleak tale. The undisclosed city where the upper-class couple reside is painted as a dark place that breeds poisonous attitudes, contempt and intrigue; while their country residence is the place of light where their children are being raised to feel free taking in the more simple pleasures of life such as fishing.

REVIEWED ON 2/16/2006 GRADE: C+  https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/