In Roberto Rossellini' s 1954 drama, a middle-aged English couple, Katherine (Ingrid Bergman) and Alex (George Sanders), travels to Naples to settle the estate of a dead relative. But perhaps because they are out of their comfort zone, the journey mostly illuminates the dissolution of their marriage.
They pout and spat; she tours the ruins, he dabbles in Capri' s café society. Being British, they are generally having a miserable time in a foreign country with "spicy" food, lax work hours and too many nude statues on display. (By today' s standards, their sojourn, with private tours of the Pompeii excavations via luxury auto and lolling about a gorgeous villa, seems an unattainable dream vacation.) Each is attracted to, and discomfited by, Italy' s post-war vitality: Katherine counts the pregnant women in the street, while Alex flirts awkwardly with lively Italian women.
A well-produced work that combines a neorealist documentary style with melodrama, the film' s content and tone wouldn' t be out of place as a contemporary arthouse feature. The conversations are halting, with more left unsaid than said; banal scenes are loaded with clues to the troubled relationship that the viewer must contextualize; and metaphors linking the once-vibrant-but-now-frozen past to the couple' s moribund present abound.