After filming stories about the resistance of the Italian people during the Fascist and Nazi regimes, and the story of a German child against the barren landscape of Berlin after the war, Roberto Rossellini made a movie about Francis of Assisi and started a love and work relationship with actress Ingrid Bergman. In his evolution to works like 'The Rise To Power of Louis XIV', he made a series of melodramas with Bergman, of which 'Stromboli' and 'Voyage To Italy' are always considered the most important. Add to that list this fine drama, in which bourgeois housewife Irene suffers a transformation when confronted with the misery of those who had not been benefited with the European 'economic miracle.' Considered a saint by those she helped (Giulietta Masina included), Rossellini makes quite obvious that Irene reached that state by detouring from the usual roads she took as the wife of a prominent industrialist (Alexander Knox.) Not only has she a Marxist cousin –who curiously does not preach his philosophy, but gives Irene advise whenever she talks about the misery she is discovering- but she also ventures into the slums, helps a single mother, a prostitute and a thief. The final section of the movie reminded me of 'María de mi corazón', a latter film written by Gabriel García Márquez, based on a real story. As in 'María…' there is neither opportunity nor chance to explain clearly what she's going through to husband or authorities, leading her to a dead end of desperation. Only sainthood will save her from the dehumanization around her.
Irene Girard is an ambassador's wife and used to living in luxury. After the dramatic death of her son, she feels guilty of having neglected him and feels compelled to help people in need who cross her path. One day she offers shelter to a man who is evading justice, and she ends being arrested herself. Her husband, for the sake of social propriety, arranges for a doctor to declare her insane. Irene escapes one prison to enter another, and to reflect on what sort of society she lives in.
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