Directed by Roberto Rossellini
Written by Roberto Rossellini, Sergio Amedei et al
Berit Films/RKO Radio Pictures
Karin: [Last lines] God… my God… help me! Give me the strength… the understanding… and the courage. God, God, God, oh my God, merciful God… God, God, God!
Beautifully shot, powerful, yet frustrating film.
Karin (Ingrid Bergman), a Lithuanian refugee, sits in an Italian woman’s camp after a bunch of hard knocks during the war. Antonio, an inmate of the men’s camp, has fallen in love with her through the barbed wire fence. He is about to be released and wants to marry her and take her with him to his island home. She figures she might take him up on the offer if she doesn’t get her visa to go to Argentina. The visa is denied and they are married.
The small island Antonio takes Karin to is dominated by an active volcano. The last eruption destroyed many of the houses and caused many islanders to emigrate. The remaining inhabitants are ultra-conservative and traditional. Karin loathes the place on first sight. She openly says she is too civilized for such a place.
Antonio is surprisingly accommodating at first. He gets a job as a fisherman and brings his meager wages home to Karin. Karin goes to the priest to complain about the impossibility of her situation and he advises her to pray and try to make a good home for Antonio. She brings a huge cactus into the house, takes down the family portraits and photos, and paints a bright mural on the wall. Antonio is perplexed and dismayed.
Karin makes no attempt whatsoever to fit it. All the women on this island are apparently in mourning and dress head to toe in black. Karin bares her midriff and legs or wears trousers. She disregards warnings from visiting a woman of ill-repute who has a sewing machine she wants to use. She rows out to visit Antonio while he is trying to work. She is caught in what she thinks are innocent embraces with other men a couple of times. Naturally, Antonio is taunted as a cuckold.
Then the volcano erupts. The experience is horrifying. Karin announces she is leaving. Antonio tries to lock her up. Karin seduces the lighthouse keeper into freeing her and giving her a little money. The pregnant Karin must climb the still smoking volcano to catch a boat on the other side of the island.
Karin is one seriously mixed up person in my opinion. I could not figure out whether we were supposed to sympathize with her plight. I both felt sorry for her and was totally exasperated by her. Bergman is really good here. You would not know she was a Hollywood movie star but for her exceptional beauty. There are a couple of amazing documentary-like sequences — one of catching a feeding frenzy of huge tuna and one of the eruption and panicked evacuation of the village. Worth seeing but I won’t be revisiting it any time soon.