|Odd pairing: George Sanders and Ingrid Bergman|
"I've never seen noise and boredom go so well together."
Katherine Joyce (Ingrid Bergman) and her husband Alex (George Sanders) travel to Italy to look at a house she has inherited from a late uncle. This house is in the shadow of Vesuvius, and the same can be said of the Joyce's marriage. As he joins friends in Capri, and she tours Naples, both dwell on the utter barrenness of their lives together. [It's hard to understand why she ever married such a cold fish in the first place.] Once you get past the bizarre sight of such different actors as Bergman and Sanders in the same movie -- both are excellent, however, and play quite well together -- what you're left with is a fair-to-middling travelogue and decidedly minor marital drama. It's like Rossellini cobbled this together to show off his lover Bergman as well as some historic points of Italy. The best scene has the couple in Pompeii where they are excavating the remains of a man and woman who died in the eruption. Moved by the awful fate of the ancient couple, as well as the fate of her marriage, Katherine bursts into tears and runs off. This is a lovely scene, but unfortunately the rest of the movie doesn't measure up. [There is also a nice scene when she remembers a poet who cared for her and who died]. One doesn't expect yowling soap opera, but something perhaps with more of a story, better-developed characters, some dramatic tension. Some may appreciate the understated tone, while others will find this worth only a shrug. Very nice musical score [from various sources] and a good supporting cast.The ending is completely unconvincing, and the film as a whole is superficial, although many consider it quite influential.
Verdict: With a stronger script and better-developed plot this could have been a contender. **.