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Irene is a wealthy, self-absorbed Rome socialite consumed by guilt over the death of her son. As a way of dealing with her grief and finding meaning in her life, she decides to devote her time and money to the city's poor. Her single-minded activism leads to conflicts with her husband and questions regarding her sanity.
For more about Europe ’51 and the Europe ’51 Blu-ray release, see Europe ’51 Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on September 11, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Roberto Rossellini
Writers: Roberto Rossellini, Ivo Perilli, Brunello Rondi
Starring: Ingrid Bergman, Alexander Knox, Giulietta Masina, Marcella Rovena, Maria Zanoli, William Tubbs
» See full cast & crew
Europe ’51 Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, September 11, 2013
Winner of International Award at the Venice Film Festival, Roberto Rossellini's "Europe '51" (1952) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include the Italian-language version of the film, "Europa '51"; an archival introduction by Roberto Rossellini; exclusive video interview with Italian film critic Adriano Apra; and a video interview with Italian film scholar Elena Dagrada. In English or Italian, with optional English SDH and English subtitles. Region-A "locked".
Note: Europe '51 is part of Criterion's upcoming 3 Films by Roberto Rossellini Starring Ingrid Bergman Blu-ray box set.
A tragic event forces the beautiful socialite Irene Girard (Ingrid Bergman, Intermezzo, A Woman's Face) to temporarily abandon her wealthy husband (Alexander Knox, Khartoum, Crack in the World) and enter the world of the poor and underprivileged. She begins spending time with single mothers who can barely make ends meet, prostitutes, and underpaid workers, and then begins reevaluating her life.
In Rome's slums, Irene quickly realizes that her previous life has been a meaningless illusion because she never cared about her friends and their feelings. Overwhelmed by guilt, Irene also begins to ponder the importance of faith.
This often overlooked film directed by the great Roberto Rossellini is essentially a contemporary replica of his excellent The Flowers of St. Francis. Predictably, the focus of attention in it is not so much on Irene's actual journey through the slums, but on her gradual character transformation and the humility and happiness she rediscovers after she abandons her posh lifestyle.
This is also a film that is seriously concerned with the polarizing division between the poor and the wealthy in post-war Italy. Indeed, the sense of guilt that initiates Irene's character transformation is only a pretext to question the values and beliefs of the wealthy, as well as to promote various leftists ideas and principles.
The tragedy that occurs in the film is a product of the division – it is inspired by the coldness and isolation the wealthy have become comfortable with. After Irene leaves her family, Rossellini points the camera to the short discussions where her decision is debated to further expose the ignorance of those who have had an active role in her life. Pay close attention to their attitude and you will see that it mirrors Irene's from the party sequence in the beginning of the film.
Interestingly enough, Irene's transformation also leads to isolation. Of course, this time it is her relationship with the poor that is responsible for it, but she is again removed from the real world and consequently forced to suffer.
Bergman is at her very best in Europe '51. The sizable transformation she undergoes is remarkable. The great Giulietta Masina plays the single mother from the slums whose life is a lot simpler and a lot more fulfilling than Irene's. The prostitute Irene befriends is played by the beautiful Teresa Pellati. Alexander Know is the wealthy husband, while Ettore Giannini plays Irene's quiet left-leaning cousin Andrea.
Europe '51 was lensed by Aldo Tonti, one of the greatest post-war Italian cinematographers. (Marcelo Pagliero's Roma città libera, Luchino Visconti's Ossessione, Federico Fellini's Nights Of Cabiria).
Rossellini's film exists in a number of different versions: the Venice version (Europa '51, Italian-language), the Italian theatrical version (Europa '51, Italian-language), the U.S. version (The Greatest Love, English-language), and the International version (Europe '51, English-language). Criterion's Blu-ray release contains two versions of the film: the international English-language version, Europe '51, which runs at approximately 110 minutes (01.49.46), and the Italian-language international version, Europa '51, which runs at approximately 119 minutes. (Please note that Bergman spoke her lines in English).
Europe ’51 Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Roberto Rossellini's Europe '51 arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The release contains two versions of the film:
1. Europe '51 (English-language version which runs at 01.49.46./1080p).
2. Europa '51 (Italian-language version which runs at 01.58.21./1080p).
Please note that screencaptures #1-19 are from the restored Europe '51, while screencaptures #20-29 are from Europa '51.
Europe '51 has received a new 2K digital restoration which has addressed different source-related issues. There are, however, various inherited limitations - such as fading, damage, and contrast fluctuations - that have been retained. I have to speculate that many of them are virtually impossible to effectively address without possibly further destabilizing the integrity of the image. (A large-scale restoration, with manual repair of select areas, would most likely require very serious and certainly very expensive work, and the final result will likely be only marginally better than what is present on this Blu-ray disc). This is why I also believe that a decision was made to present the film in a raw condition rather than try to fully repair it and in the process damage it even more.
Portions of the film boast very good detail and pleasing clarity. After Irene visits the slums, in particular, there are excellent close-ups (see screencapture #4). Even some of the nighttime footage looks surprisingly healthy (see screencapture #2). Occasionally, sharpness levels fluctuate, but it is easy to see that poor digital work is not responsible for these fluctuations. Grain is also retained as best as possible, but in select areas some of it has been affected by the fading. (These areas typically look softer). There are no traces of problematic sharpening adjustments. I also did not see any traces of contrast boosting. The most prominent damage marks are very early into the film, but they disappear quickly (see screencapture #10). Some flecks also pop up, but many actually appear to be part of the image. Lastly, there are some shaky frame transitions, but overall image stability is still very good. All in all, having previously seen two different DVD releases of this film, one French and one Italian, I am indeed very pleased with its transition to Blu-ray.
Europa '51 has a much more inconsistent look. It is softer and flatter. Overall image stability is also not as good as that of the English-language version, especially during the first half of the film. Damage is also more prominent. Sharpness and contrast levels fluctuate, but here it is again easy to see that these fluctuations are inherited.
(Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Europe ’51 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two standard audio tracks on this Blu-ray release: English LPCM 1.0 for Europe '51 and Italian LPCM 1.0 for Europa '51. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for Europe '51 and English subtitles for Europa '51.
Dynamic intensity on Europe '51 is limited, but this should not be surprising. Clarity and depth are good. More importantly, there are no serious stability issues or strong background hiss. I also did not detect any high-frequency distortions.
The lossless Italian track is of similar quality. Dynamic intensity is limited, but clarity and depth are good. It is also easy to tell that various stabilizations have been performed and hiss and crackle removed as best as possible.
Europe ’51 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Europe ’51 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Criterion's upcoming 3 Films by Roberto Rossellini Starring Ingrid Bergman box set is undoubtedly one of this year's most important releases. It appears that a number of difficult decisions were made so that these films can appear on Blu-ray, but from what I've seen so far there is no doubt in mind that they were the right decisions. Europe '51, the second film in the box set, looks the best it ever has. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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