|Irene (Ingrid Bergman) Giving Comfort To A Woman Who Attempted Suicide|
“When you’re bound to nothing, you’re bound to everyone.”
Europe ’51 is the second film in Rossellini’s Bergman trilogy and the weakest of the three films. The film asks a simple question: In postwar Europe, is there room for a modern day saint? It begins with Irene Girard (Ingrid Bergman) and her family. She is rich and spends her time at parties, the theater, etc. Her son is cracking up because during the war he spent all his time dodging air raids with Irene. As such, he can’t bear to be without her for even short amounts of time.
One evening he attempts to commit suicide, but fails. However, in the process of healing something goes wrong and he dies. It hits Irene very hard, but soon she finds an outlet in her Communist friend. He introduces her to some people who could benefit from her kindness. From that moment on she goes through a socio-political awakening like Sister Stella in Mike De Leon’s film, but then goes beyond that to achieve a spiritual awakening. At that point, she tries to help anyone she can in a very saint-like manner.
She gets a woman, played by Federico Fellini’s wife Giulietta Masina, a job and even does that job for the first day because otherwise the woman would lose the job. She moves in with a prostitute to see her through her last days with TB despite everyone’s disgust at associating with a woman of the night. Her guidance leads a boy to turn himself in for trying to rob a bank.
So what does society and her family do? Have her committed of course! In the end, the answer to Rossellini’s question is no. There is no room for a modern day saint.
The problems with this film are many fold, but the biggest one is how everything seems contrived and firmly on a set of tracks. This leads people to have some overreactions with justifications that are quite odd. You end up with something very melodramatic, unrealistic, and not completely satisfying. However, it is still worth a look.