An Essay Examining the Oriental Nature of the voyage in Rossellini's Journey to Italy (1953)

Essay by greg1981University, Master'sA, November 2003

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The Oriental in Viaggio in Italia

Journey to Italy, Rossellini's 1953 film, follows the weeklong journey of Alex and Katherine Joyce from Northern to Southern Europe. Il Viaggio portrays Italy as a highly feminine and volatile entity. In an orientalist manner, Rossellini creates an intricate contrast between the Italians, and their way of living--'dolce far niente'--, with the dysfunctional marriage of the stereotypical British couple. Orientalism is defined as a mode of representation/communication focused on the orient. The orient exists out of a constructed opposition in culture with the west and is commonly looked at as being exotic and of interest, although regularly shown as inferior and alien to western sensibilities. From the perspective of outsiders, Rossellini highlights the differences culturally, ethically, historically, and visually between the oriental , Italy, and the Northern Europeans observers. Italy, especially the south, is strongly portrayed as a 'different', separate, and perplexing subject, profoundly feminine in conflict with the ordered, über-civilized visitors' masculinity.

The Italian society is shown frequently as 'backward' and less civilized when compared to the cultural position of the English. The initial appearance of the couple depicts them driving their large British Bentley towards the perilous south. This is exemplified by their conversation in the car scene, which represents a staggering tenth of the entire film, talks of death both in regards to the erratic Italian driving and the danger presented by malaria, implying that these travelers come from a safer (less barbaric) part of the planet. The Joyce's represent all that is English; reserved, repressed, stoic, and proud, they are on an odyssey into the south of Italy, a country depicted as an untamed and sentimental place.

Rossellini continuously plays up the 'civilized' nature of the Joyce's, juxtaposed with images of cows crowding city streets, donkey's forced to...