Europe ’51 (1952)

I discovered this movie thanks to the amazing “1001 Must See Movies” book. While some movies meet or do not meet my expectations, this movie definitely exceeded them. Directed by Roberto Rossellini and starring Ingrid Bergman (one of the best!!), the movie tells the story of Irene Girard, a woman whose life takes a 180 degree following a family tragedy. She was initially enveloped and actively participating in a world of luxury, neglecting her son’s needs as an adolescent. Following his death, she contributed greatly to the health and well-being of a nearby neighbourhood in which the individuals were of a different socioeconomic status. She was treasured by the community members for her caring and value for the improvement of quality of human life. Could this have been her way of coping with her son’s death? Did she feel as if helping others would mitigate her own self-blame for her son’s death? Most likely. However, her family and those in her social circle did not believe that this was the “appropriate” way to grieve. She was now an outsider of the circle to which she was once most prominent.

This film was one of many which served as a role in the Italian neorealist movement. Set in Italy post-WWII, the movie examined real life itself. It definitely conveyed the challenges that many people faced following the war in Italy – poverty, unemployment, poor health, and many others. The title is quite simple, yet the film also examines what the title describes – Europe in 1951.

I feel that the themes and questions which arose a commentary on societal norms in terms of grief, charity, and mental illness (I will not discuss the latter too much for fear of too many spoilers).  Albeit less than in 1951/1952, there is still a massive amount of conformity that we adjust to daily in our lives to fit societal norms. When we deviate from that, how are we labelled? Are we frowned upon or celebrated, and by whom? These are some of the challenges that Irene Girard faces throughout the film, which I believe is quite relatable to us all on some level in our lives.

I do have to point out that Giulietta Masina, star of Fellini classics “Nights of Cabiria” and “La Strada”, also has a role in this film. She brings so much joy to the screen, and conveys so much emotion through her facial expressions almost to the degree of actors in silent film.

I do not own the above image.

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