Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Journey to Italy (1954)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Journey to Italy (1954, It./Fr.) (aka Viaggio in Italia, or Voyage to Italy)

In Roberto Rossellini's evocative romantic drama, an example of Italian neo-realism, it explored a reserved but troubled British couple traveling in Italy together during a vacation, who were struggling to save their marriage:

  • in the film's opening, an unhappily-married, wealthy, sophisticated, and childless British couple (after eight years of marriage) was driving toward Naples, Italy; the two were sensitive-minded Katherine Joyce (Ingrid Bergman) and her husband - workaholic, cold-hearted, often-bored, and brusque Alexander 'Alex' Joyce (George Sanders)
  • the couple was in a car driving mostly in silence through the Italian countryside toward Naples (Napoli) 100 kilometers away; their first lines of dialogue during a disjointed conversation were very instructive about their relationship: (Alex: "Where are we?" Katherine: "Oh, I don't know exactly."); Katherine bluntly told Alex: "It didn't occur to me that it'd be so boring for you to be alone with me"
  • they found themselves alone but together for one of the first times in their troubled, uneasy, eroding and dissatisfying marriage and fractured relationship: (Katherine: "This is the first time that we've been really alone ever since we married")
  • they stayed their first night in a two-roomed hotel suite in Naples - with separate beds; they decided to visit the bar to be in the company of others, since Katherine assumed she was always boring to Alex: ("I don't think you're very happy when we're alone")
  • their undivided, transplanted time together in non-familiar and unstructured circumstances (unlike their lives in London) magnified their unhappy situation and all its strains; they spoke about how they didn't really know each other:

    Katherine: "I realized for the first time that we, we're like strangers"
    Alex: "That's right. After eight years of marriage, it seems we don't know anything about each other"
    Katherine: "At home, everything seemed so perfect, but now that we're away, alone..."
    Alex: "Yes, it's a strange discovery to make...Now that we're strangers, we can start all over again at the beginning. Might be rather amusing, don't you think?"

  • the two thought that they might be personally renewed, find self-discovery or work out their differences, or alternatively that they should probably seek a divorce from one another
  • at the bar-restaurant, Alex suddenly became gregarious and interested in speaking to a vivacious and "charming" Brit named Judy (María Martín) - something clearly noticed by Katherine; she sensed Alex was "in good form" with Judy, but so out of step with her - his own wife
  • they were in Italy for a short visit to put up for sale a villa property on the Gulf of Naples left to Alex through inheritance by his recently-deceased Uncle Homer; at the villa on their first full day in Naples, they were given a tour of the property by its caretakers, British war veteran Tony Burton (Leslie Daniels/Anthony La Penna) and his Italian wife Natalia Burton (Natalia Rai/Ray)
  • while basking in the sun (with their eyes closed) on the deck of the villa in view of Mt. Vesuvius, the rift in their marriage intensified when the neurotic and romantic Katherine told Alex a melancholy tale involving a former "pale and spiritual" acquaintance of hers named Charles Lewington who had become seriously ill and died two years earlier; he had been stationed in Italy during the war where he wrote poems; she recited part of one: "Temple of the spirit. No longer bodies but pure ascetic images compared to which mere thought seems flesh, heavy, dim"; she recalled how youthful suitor Charles had come to visit her on the eve of her wedding to Alex - he had braved rain and cold weather to come to her window, and she ran out to greet him in the garden; Alex reacted coldly to her recollected story of lost and unrequited passionate love and called Charles "a fool"
Katherine's Melancholy Tale About a Young Poetic Suitor
  • afterwards, both of them started to follow different and independent pursuits - Katherine hastily left the villa for the day by herself to drive back to Naples to begin visiting cultural and historical Neapolitan sites and museums on her own; as she drove through the busy streets of the city, she muttered under her breath about her seething distaste for her mean husband Alex: "I hate him. The brute! He thinks he understands life. He ought to be punished for his pride, his self-assurance"; she was guided through the expansive hallways of the National Archaeological Museum with gigantic statuary - providing a survey of Roman imperial history; later back at the villa, she told Alex how the stone figures were boldly displayed with full nudity: "What struck me was the complete lack of modesty with which everything is expressed"
  • once they were alone, they mutually accused and blamed each other of sabotaging their marriage:
  • Katherine: "Ever since we realized how little we meant to each other, you've done everything you could to make things worse." Alex: "And what about you? You haven't said a word or made a gesture to try to save what little is left of our marriage."
    Katherine: "But why should I make the effort all alone?"
    Alex: "Because it's your fault. The whole thing is your fault!"
    Katherine: "I think you ought to know that it didn't take me long after we were married to realize what was wrong. There was always criticism in your eyes, criticism until it crushed me!"

  • Alex accused Katherine of a "lack of a sense of humor and your ridiculous romanticism"; she countered by claiming he had reduced her rank or status to "a mere hostess" - Alex suggested that for their betterment, they should stay away from one another
  • the often smug, condescending and sarcastic Alex, who sometimes expressed hostility and lashed out at strange customs he encountered, departed to enjoy the socializing and 'company' of past acquaintances on the island of Capri; meanwhile, Katherine visited the site of the caves of the Cumaean Sibyl; the elderly guide told her: "It is here that lovers came to question the Sybil when they wanted to know what the course of their love would be"
  • Alex visited the island of Capri for a few days to be with other British tourists and womanize with married socialite Marie (Maria Mauban)
  • as Katherine drove to her next tourist site, she noticed strolling couples, and young mothers pushing baby carriages (later, she also commented about all the pregnant women in Naples); at the volcanic, igneous Phlegraean Fields of Vesuvius, she was shown boiling lava and sulphur springs
  • when Alex returned on a boat from Capri to the mainland at 5:00 pm, Alex picked up an unnamed morbid, depressed and almost-suicidal prostitute (Anna Proclemer); she didn't understand when he called her a "shameless, brazen hussy"; they had a brief chat while parked together in his car, when she told him: "If you didn't call me just now, I think I would have thrown myself into the sea"; he abandoned her and dropped her off before returning to the villa; he found Katherine waiting up for him, but disguising the fact that she was concerned about him

Alex with Married Socialite Marie (Maria Mauban)

Alex with Prostitute (Anna Proclemer)
  • the next day at the Fontanelle catacombs with Natalia Burton, Katherine viewed rows of skeletal skulls gathered from ancient cemeteries, as Natalia had earlier described: "These poor dead are abandoned and alone. They have no one to look after them, no one to pray for them"; when they returned to the villa, Alex chided her for taking the car on another "love pilgrimage" ("another ruin immortalized by Charles?"); he also meanly criticized her: "Everything you do nowadays seems so utterly senseless"; when she called him "intolerable," he suggested that they get a divorce
  • at a crossroads in their relationship and in a pivotal scene together, Alex and Katherine were pressured by Tony Burton to visit the ancient ruins and site of archaeological excavations of the lava-covered city of Pompeii in 79 AD; they were shocked while viewing the real-life, slow uncovering, reconstructing and unearthing of the disintegrated yet preserved remains of two people (revealed in plaster casts or molds put into a hollow space) who had died lying together: ("Two people, just as they were at the moment they died. A man and a woman, perhaps husband and wife, who knows, may have found death like this together?")
  • the sight of the preserved human remains slowly being unearthed represented the internal upheavals and disillusionment occurring within Katherine’s own inner self; the couple experienced a profoundly disturbing reaction, especially Katherine: "Oh, Alex, this is too much. I can't stand it any longer. Please take me home. I want to go home. I don't want to stay here any longer." Later as they quickly departed, Alex also admitted to her: "I understand how you feel. I was pretty moved myself"
  • the film's moving resolution and reconciliation scene (although contrived and a formulaic, possibly hopeful ending) occurred as they drove back through Naples to the villa; they were seriously threatening to break up and divorce each other when they found themselves engulfed in the midst of a religious processional for Saint Gennaro (crowds of joyous marchers cried out: 'Miracle! Miracle!')
  • the two were forced to park their car by the side of the street and wait; they abandoned the car and soon became separated within the surge of humanity - Katherine felt emotionally alone and desperately called out for Alex's help; the two lost individuals began to search for each other and found relief and a sense of mutual completeness once they found each other, hugged, and were reunited

Engulfed and Trapped in Their Car by Crowds of Humanity

Katherine: "Oh I don't want to lose you"

Reconciled in the Film's Conclusion
  • they became recommitted to each other with newfound hope and an embrace, as the camera pulled back and raised up:

    Katherine: "Oh, I don't want to lose you."
    Alex: "Katherine, what's wrong with us? Why do we torture one another?"
    Katherine: "When you say things that hurt me, I try to hurt you back. Don't you see? But I can't - I can't any longer, because I love you."
    Alex: "Perhaps we get hurt too easily."
    Katherine: "Tell me that you love me."
    Alex: "Well, if I do, will you promise not to take advantage of me?"
    Katherine: "Yes, but tell me. I want to hear you say it."
    Alex: "Alright, I love you."

Opening Image

Unhappily-Married, Bored Couple: Katherine and Alex

Katherine: "This is the first time that we've been really alone..."

Katherine: "...we're like strangers"

Alex: " seems we don't know anything about each other"

Tour of Uncle Homer's Villa Guided by the Burtons

Katherine: "I hate him"

Katherine in the Naples Archaeological Museum

Blaming and Sabotaging Each Other (Alex: "The whole thing is your fault!")

Katherine in the Caves of the Cumaean Sibyl

Katherine in the Boiling Lava Fields of Vesuvius

Katherine at the Catacombs of Fontanelle

Alex to Katherine: "Let's get a divorce!"

Katherine's Shocked Reaction at the Remains in Pompeii


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