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Film / Stromboli

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Stromboli is a 1950 film directed by Roberto Rossellini.

Karin (Ingrid Bergman) is a Lithuanian woman who, we eventually learn, got through World War II by sleeping with German officers. The war is over, however, and Karin finds herself locked up in a Displaced Persons camp. Luckily for Karin — or so it seems — she has an admirer in the person of Antonio (Mario Vitale), himself recently released from a POW camp, who has spotted her through the fence. Denied permission to travel to Brazil, Karin settles for second best, escaping the camp by marrying Antonio.

Antonio is from the island of Stromboli. As Karin finds out to her unpleasant surprise, the island is a barren flyspeck with a volcano that erupts continually. Karin, who has lived a pretty high-class lifestyle for much of her life, instantly hates it. She doesn't care for the locals, mostly crusty old folks — young people have a habit of leaving the boring, isolated, and dangerous island — and, for their part, the old ladies of the town don't much approve of the gorgeous young foreigner who doesn't speak Italian. Karin is rather quickly shunned by the townspeople, and her marriage of convenience grows ever more stressed. Eventually matters reach a point of crisis, as the volcano continues to erupt.

As with many Italian Neorealism films, the cast were all locals except for Bergman and Renzo Cesana, the actor who played the priest. One of the most notorious cases of Romance on the Set, as Bergman left her husband for Rossellini, causing a huge Serious Business scandal in Hollywood.


  • All of the Other Reindeer: The women of the island take an instant dislike to Karin. One says "You have no modesty", and that's about all that any of them ever say to her, as she is instantly shunned. Worse, she's actively harassed; one old lady chucks out her dish water just as Karin is passing by.
  • Cabin Fever: Karin does not enjoy being stuck in a tiny village on an isolated island with a bunch of people who hate her.
  • Citizenship Marriage: Karin marries Antonio to get out of the DP camp. It doesn't work out, although it's probably still better than getting deported to the Soviet Union where she'd probably go to the gulag.
  • Disturbed Doves: The last shot shows a flock of birds flying up from the volcano as Karin cries out to God for guidance and strength.
  • Fish out of Water: A particularly severe case. Karin hates the rustic, isolated village from the moment she gets there. It doesn't help that she apparently comes from a once-uppercrust family and spent the war living in comfort as a German officer's concubine. She only knows a few words of Italian and can't communicate with anybody other than some of the older male villagers who lived in America. Mundane parts of village life like the big tuna hunt gross her out. And of course she is tall, gorgeous Ingrid Bergman and doesn't fit in with the old crones in peasant robes.
    Karin: I belong to another class.
  • Fourth-Date Marriage: Antonio and Karin get married when they barely know each other. It turns out they have nothing in common.
  • Idiot Ball: It was not a good idea for Karin to make an obvious sexual advance to the priest, who was her only friend in the town besides her husband. He throws her out of his office and after that she is even more isolated.
  • No Ending: Karin decides to look for a boat leaving the village on the other side, but this requires walking over the volcano. This proves to be too difficult, with the volcano continuing to belch smoke, and Karin stops at the peak. She cries out to God. “No! I can’t go back! I can’t! They are horrible. It was all horrible. They don’t know what they’re doing. I’m even worse. I’ll save him. Oh, my innocent child. God! My God! Help me! Give me the strength, the understanding, and the courage! Oh, God! Oh God! God! Oh, my God! Merciful God! God! God! God!” Then the movie ends. Does she go back, or does she continue on to the village on the other side? Who's the "him" she talks about saving—her husband or her unborn baby? It's a Riddle for the Ages.
  • Serenade Your Lover: As the film opens Antonio can be heard outside the DP camp singing to Karin.
  • Sexy Soaked Shirt: Karin winds up splashing about in the water, slipping and falling, and being helped up by the handsome lighthouse keeper. This is noticed by the women of the town and eventually provokes an ugly confrontation with her husband.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Antonio, who has formerly been affectionate even as Karin mostly holds him in contempt, beats her up after finding out about her flirtation with the lighthouse keeper.