The Solitude Trilogy: A Look at Psychological Realism

At the peak of the Neorealist movement, Rossellini's career took a sharp turn. Moving away from the themes of war, liberation and social change, he took one step closer to that part of realism which, up to that point, had been ignored. Rediscovering the identity of reality in his transitional films, Rossellini rejected the cinematic style which he helped create as well as the cinematic language which had been in use since the cinema's inception. As a result of his transitional period, Rossellini turned toward an aspect of psychological realism. Up to that point, realism had only been defined by the environment (eg. war and liberation) and the collection of images of common people doing things not uncommon in the post-war period. People had been defined by their situations, actions and ideology instead of their psychological make-up. This was the theme to which Rossellini turned to after his re-examination or reality in his films L'Amore and La macchina ammazzacattivi .

The thing that was so distinctive about these films was not which realistic aspects were present , but rather which aspects each film was lacking. Essentially, the characters, script, and action were stripped and brought to their most simplistic terms. As one critic recognized, perhaps without realizing the significance of his observation, '...there is no subject, no dialogue, no script, no direction. It is just a jumble of images that revolve around emptily, tediously, without the slightest glimmer of interest...' (Films 98). Another, more astute critic, picked up where the previous left off giving the reader an important insight into these films: 'To have a regard for reality does not mean that what one does in fact is to pile up appearances. On the contrary, it means that one strips the appearances of all that is not essential, in order to get at the totality in its simplicity' (Film 99). It seemed like Rossellini was going back and reanalyzing the simple story lines he used the Fascist era but on a higher level, with a moral message. If Rossellini striped his films down to their simplest forms, what was left? Without action, script and dialogue, the only connection was characters and their only forum was their marriage. Here Rossellini began to study marriage and documented what happened in the breakdown of communication. Reassuming his scientist's role, as he did in L'Amore , Rossellini studied two subjects, the husband and wife, and concentrated on their interaction in their environment, their marriage. Rossellini looked at how the two characters acted within their marriage and reflected their attitude and inner feelings without directly vocalizing. Rather he externalized their emotions onto the environment.

In Stromboli terra di dio Karin is taken to an environment which is completely the opposite of her native Scandinavia. She is an outcast because of her modern clothing and open mind but, despite this, tries to build a life in provincial, sparsely populated, uneducated and isolated Stromboli. Further emphasizing this new lonely situation is her ignorant husband, a man who has yet to grasp all of the intricacies of the Italian language, who just keeps her like a doll in their tiny home. After the wedding he looks at her like an acquisition, neither a human being nor a wife. His occasional beatings push her farther away from him and emphasizes her isolation from the society in which she is living. The seclusion from her husband and from the rest of the townsfolk is reflected in the rocky gray terrain surrounding her and her helplessness and general solitude is reflected in her island environment. This seclusion was further demonstrated in the fishing scene. With her boat rocking wildly and splashed with salt water, Karin obviously does not belong in this situation. He reaction is in contrast with that of the fishermen who are calm and methodic in this harsh environment. The only people, outside of her husband, that communicate with her are a group of old men who help her move her furniture and a young boy, both reflecting the sterility and lack of an intellectual atmosphere. The environment which mirrored her emotions reached its peak in the final scene when Karin is wandering through the barren lava fields searching for the path to the neighboring town from where the ferry leaves. A sudden dust storm makes her lose her way and she is drained of all her energy. When she collapses from fatigue, a conversation with God reveals her hopelessness and the environment represents her psychological solitude as well as the sterility in her marriage and intra-marital communication.

In Europa '51 Irene, unlike Karin, is not an outcast but rather secure in her bourgeois environment. Her life shatters when he son leaps to his death during a dinner party. Retreating to her bed for several days her husband just doesn't know what to do to help her. There is no communication and a significant lack of understanding in their marriage. This is especially true when Irene attempts to go out into the community and share her fortune with those who need it. Irene does not even try to communicate with her husband because she knows that he would never try to understand her new way of thinking. Therefore, she retreats into a new environment where she feels needed. Her husband, misunderstanding her acts of charity, decides that she has lost control of her life and puts her into an asylum. Her quest to finding a new identity after the death of her son results in alienating her husband while being idolized by the lower social class people whom she helps. In the final scenes, the asylum reflects the desolation of her new situation and she feels isolated from the others patients with whom she cannot relate.

In Viaggio in Italia both Katherine and Alexander are isolated from their comfortable formal British world. Their rigidness is in a direct contrast with the Italians' love of life. The couple is by themselves for the first time in eight years and faced with this reunion, their marriage begins to fall apart. Now, alienated by her husband and the ambiance, Katherine feels secluded. We learn more about Katherine's situation in the museum scenes where Rossellini use the plan-sequénce method for the second time. The viewer must take an active role and look at the statue with Katherine. Her point of view is not privileged, as the camera reveals to the audience the same thing that Katherine sees at the same time. (Italian Cinema 106) With the close-ups, the viewer must look at Katherine and discern for themselves what her reactions mean and what they reveal about her character. These scenes function to illustrate Katherine's solitude in the face of the Italian way of life, their comfortableness with the human body, their respect for the dead, and their love of family.

In all three of these films Rossellini focused on the solitude of a woman in a marriage without communication or understanding. He occupied himself with the realm of psychological realism by focusing on the women and their immediate environments, their marriages. Their internal distress was projected outward and was reflected by the environment around them instead of being vocalized. Perhaps Rossellini became interested in psychological realism and marital interaction because of the desire to build up a strong marriage with his new wife, Ingrid Bergman. Whatever the reason, and whatever the popular reaction to his new themes, Rossellini's efforts brought the examination of reality onto to a more profound level than that of his earlier portrayal of realistic imagery.

The Evolution of Reality in Rossellini's Works