Top positive review
38 people found this helpful
A gift to posterity
on May 12, 2009
Though considered one of Roberto Rossellini's greatest works, this film is actually a lesser-known film of both Roberto Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman, which is a pity because it is an intriguing film, and like most art films, possessed of more real quality than most commercial releases, past or present.
Aside from its story, the film itself is a gift to posterity in exhibiting authentic street scenes, countryside, and Mediterranean landscapes and renowned destinations of Naples, Pompeii, and Capri. These real-life scenes are cinematic treasures that no vintage travelogue would ever show, living tableaus of a postwar Southern Italy that is gone forever but here captured through the eyes and lens of one of Italy's native artists who is also gone forever.
What makes the film so enchanting is that the rare and uniquely filmed scenery is metaphorical with the story, for the "journey" (voyage) of the film's title is not just a physical journey but an emotional and philosophical journey as well.
The story, superficially, is about a British husband and wife who are in Naples for the purpose of selling family land. The essence of the story derives from the couple's constant bickering, which blinds them to all that is around them - all the natural and manmade beauty of Italy that is passing before them in symbols of life and death. Each of them is too self-absorbed to realize or appreciate that everything - time, culture, way of life - is passing, just like the landscape as they drive along in their Rolls Royce, and in their blindness, they repeatedly forfeit the happiness of just being alive, together, and voyaging in Italy.
Worth seeing in the film are the dated scenes of the sculpture galleries of the Naples National Archaeological Museum, also the Solfatara Crater where a guide demonstrates the vapor phenomenon to Ingrid Bergman.
But the most significant visual art of the film - absolutely most worth the film - is a moving and pivotal scene near the film's end in which the couple (and the viewer) has the opportunity to witness an actual archaeological excavation process of on-site mould casting of skeletal remains at the ruins of Pompeii. This was a real event, not staged, which makes the cinematic and metaphorical impact all the stronger. The skeletal remains are those of a man and a woman caught at the moment of instant death from the Vesuvian eruption of 79 CE.
Just as the couple wonders, the viewer also wonders what were the man and woman doing at that last moment when death took them by surprise. Bickering? Making love?
Scenes of a beautiful religious procession conclude the film, which is only 84 minutes long. The couple is forced by the procession to stop their car. As they stand, still bickering, amid the onlookers, a miracle takes place with a blind old man who suddenly (just as suddenly as Vesuvius erupted long ago) regains his sight. In all the commotion, the couple becomes separated, which for them is the miracle that reunites them.