Journey to Italy (1953) is a film directed by Roberto Rossellini that is loosely based on a novel “Duo (1934)” by French writer Colette. “Duo” is about a married couple on vacation in southern france, who deal with the fact that the wife has been unfaithful.(Brunette P) Contrary to belief, “Journey to Italy (1953)” or “Viaggio in Italia (1953)” is about a unhappily married couple on vacation in Italy, who deal with each other’s presence in a resentful manner, but non of them is unfaithful.


A few examples of such resentful manner are the scenes where the husband – Alex chooses not to sit with his wife – Katherine during an coincidentally gathering with katherine’s friends, and flirted with a pretty woman beside him. After staying a few days with Katherine in a friend’s home, Alex chooses to leave her for capri. He enthusiastically meet up with the same woman he flirted with, asking her out without hesitation. However, he reflected on his desperation for her love as he felt an inch of despair shown on his face when the woman told Alex that she loves her husband very much. Katherine, on the other hand, chooses to sleep on the sofa in the living room instead of beside her husband. Clearly, such moves to make themselves distant shows how much they dislike one another despite being married for 3 years.

The essence of the film was to question the married couple whether a children could salvage their unhappy marriage. A child to act as their catalyst by changing annoyance to delight.

Watch the trailer over here:


Cultural Significance

This film was made before War World II, hence the film does not focus much on tough socio-economic. Instead, Rossellini explores the possible argument of a married couple.

Commented by the publisher of the trailer above, “Arguably the very greatest of Rossellini’s films, this piercing study of a marriage on the rocks is also one of the cinema’s most miraculous love stories.” (Youtube comment)

Miraculous may be the fact that both husband and wife recoiled back together at the last two minutes of the film, where katherine was caught in a human crowd that dragged her away from alex.

Katherine’s solo trip to museums witnessed many pregnant ladies roaming around the streets, couples walking hand-in-hand and bunch of children having fun. She has a strong urge to have an offspring with Alex, which perhaps could save their marriage.

Historical Significance

Truffaut wrote in his 1963 essay – Roberto Rossellini Prefers Real Life, that “Rossellini’s influence in France particularly among the directors who would become part of the nouvelle vague was so great that he was in every sense, “the father of the French New Wave”.”

Scorsese notes in his documentary that “in contrast to directors who often become more restrained and more conservative stylistically as their careers advance, Rossellini became more and more unconventional and was constantly experimenting with new styles and technical challenges.” (Scorsese)

For example, during the drive to Alex’s friend for a short home stay, we can see that jump cuts were being used in the editing of the film. Furthermore, 40% of Journey to Italy’s scene was filmed in the museum or at the architectural site (Pompeii’s volcanic site). Such scenes were accompanied by a knowledgeable man, explaining the significance of an object or a place.

However despite the fact that Rossellini tailores his scripts according to the non-professional actors’ feelings and life-stories to make it as realistic a film as possible, the film performed badly at the box office until French critics at the Cahiers du Cinéma, like François Truffaut liked and proclaimed it to be the first modern film.

As the film is one that threads very near an extremely sensitive and possibly touchy topic, the intensity of its content could have been the cause of its temporary failure. Critic Peter Keough of Boston Globe said, “You might not want to bring along someone you love, because you could end up leaving the theater alone.” Whilst Trevor Johnston of Timeout stated, “Rossellini stealthily ushers us towards a sense of heady affirmation so primal that ‘romance’ isn’t a strong enough word for it.” Both critics support the fact that the film is one of such force that propels people to feel exceedingly strongly for, it drives people to make decisions and choices with pure content, the pure unsettling discomfort could’ve been the sole reason for its initial lack of success.

Quoted by Rossellini, “I do not want to make beautiful films, I want to make useful films,” “I try to capture reality, nothing else.” This statement is reflected in his film. 

A film that speaks such deep meaning and truth would definitely need to be watched with an extremely open heart and mind.


Katie Tham is the creative director on how to be creatively rebellious. She devotes her time to laugh and shower the world with warmth. Her love moto is not about finding the right one to love, but how you can love the found one right. Be sure to stay connected with her unglamorous via her instagram @emberiakatt.


Brunette, Peter (1987). Roberto Rossellini. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. p. 156.

Youtube Comment [online] Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXJM3shx8WU [ Accessed: 23 June 2013]

Roberto Rossellini’s bilography IMDb. Journey to Italy (1953) [online] Available at: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0744023/bio [23 June 2013]


One thought on “Journey to Italy (1953)

  1. Hi Katie!

    I think this essay is pretty elaborate but you mentioned in your last paragraph, “The local audience would then, be able to easily relate to the film while the international audience would gain accurate understanding about their culture” but the film actually performed badly at the box office before certain French critics took notice of it after a while.

    Perhaps you’d want to give possible reasons why it wasn’t well received, since you said the local audience would be be able to easily relate to the film, perhaps you’d want to find reasons why it didn’t do well? I supported my small edit with a few critics’ take on how it might not have done well, hope it helps a little in giving more insight to your essay!

    Germaine 😀

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