(de) wrote: Roberto Rosselini's rarely seen "Stromboli" is the first of several films in his partnership with, and scandalous marriage to, Hollywood icon Ingrid Bergman. Leaving behind the working class preoccupations of Neo Realism, a movement of cinema of which he was a founding father, Rosselini focuses on one upper-class woman and her struggle to adapt within a situation forced upon her. We begin in a displaced persons camp in Italy (all of the extras are played by women who actually live in the camp - Rosselini, throughout his career, was constantly struggling between documentary and fiction). Karin (Ingrid Bergman) has been running from country to country, trying to escape the war, and is now more or less stuck in Italy, with no place to go. When her last hope fails, a visa application to Venezuela, she decides to escape by marrying Antonio (Mario Vitale), a young Italian soldier whom she barely knows from a few broken conversations separated by a barbed wire fence. Though Karin doesn't speak Italian, and Antonio knows very little English, she accepts the marriage as her only way out, and almost looks forward to going to live on the island of his childhood that he tries to describe to her as being very beautiful. When they arrive by boat, we discover the painful route the rest of this film will take. The island, Stromboli, is an active volcano rising out of the Mediterranean. The landscape is barren and forbidding, nothing but rocks, ash and a few ancient, barely hospitable houses. The only person on the island who seems to sympathize with Karin is the priest (Renzo Cesana), who expalains that the majority of the people on Stromboli are simply waiting to move away, or are too old to leave. For reasons she doesn't understand, she is looked on with ridicule by the citizens, and because of their language barrier is forced to talk to her husband like a child. Bergman's Karin is a complicated character: to be honest, she's selfish, haughty, and at times indulges in childish fits and tantrums, directing all her anger and frustration towards her hapless, simple husband, a man who has knows nothing of life beyond Stromboli and his military service. At the same time, her frustration is totally justified, trapped in a culture, terrain and language that she doesn't understand, and that doesn't understand her. This builds to the last several minutes, when Karin escapes, trying to cross the volcano to reach the village on the other side of the island. She wanders the alien terrain consumed with grief, and in the end, we're never sure whether she's made it across, whether she's given up and returned to Antonio's village, or whether she's died trying. It's amazing that Rosselini is able to make a film so full of anger and misery that has no distinct enemy or oppressive force. Though, because of Bergman's performance, we sympathize with Karin throughout, we at the same time understand that neither Antonio, the citizens, or Stromboli itself are to blame. In 1945's "Roma, citta aperta" (his first masterpiece), the oppression is obviously caused by the the occupation of Italy; the immediate consequences of war is the enemy in "Germania anno zero" (1948), though not as explicitly as in the latter film. Is "Stromboli", then, a study of war's long term reprocussions? Is it about what contemporary movie trailers like to call the triumph of the human spirit? It could be either of these, though I imagine Rosselini would prefer to leave that up to each individual viewer, and let the astounding visuals and emotional atmostphere of "Stomboli" do the speaking.