Europe '51

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Europe '51
Europa '51 poster.jpg
Directed by Roberto Rossellini
Produced by Roberto Rossellini
Carlo Ponti
Dino De Laurentiis
Written by Roberto Rossellini
Sandro De Feo
Mario Pannunzio
Ivo Perilli
Brunello Rondi
Starring Ingrid Bergman
Alexander Knox
Music by Renzo Rossellini
Cinematography Aldo Tonti
Edited by Jolanda Benvenuti
Distributed by I.F.E. Releasing Corporation
Release dates
4 December 1952 (Italy)
1953 (Germany)
November 3, 1954 (U.S.)
Running time
113 minutes
Country Italy
Language English, Italian

Europe '51 (Italian: Europa '51, Italian pronunciation: [euˈrɔpa tʃinkwanˈtuno], also known as The Greatest Love) is a 1952 Italian neorealist film directed by Roberto Rossellini, starring Ingrid Bergman and Alexander Knox.


Long fascinated by Francis of Assisi, Roberto Rossellini decided to create a film that placed a person of the saint's character in post-war Italy and showed what the consequences would be.[1] The film's sets were designed by Virgilio Marchi, a veteran futuristic architect.


Industrialist George (Alexander Knox) and his wife Irene (Bergman) are a wealthy couple living in post-war Rome with their son Michele (Sandro Franchina), and they host so many parties that their son feels neglected. During one party, During a dinner party, Michele constantly tries to get his mother's attention, but Irene is more interested in being a good hostess to her guests than an attentive mother, and as a result Michele attempts suicide by falling several stories down a stairwell, fracturing his hip.

At the hospital, Irene promises to never leave Michele and to be more attentive, but he dies soon after from a blood clot. Irene is bedridden for 10 days for depression, and when she finally comes out of it, she enlists the help of her cousin Andrea Casatti (Ettore Giannini) to help her overcome her grief. Andrea is a publisher and a Communist, and determines she needs to see the "the other Rome," and takes her to the poorer parts of the city.

Irene leaps to help when Andrea mentions a poor family whose son needs expensive medicine, and she immediately decides to help, donating her money to help the child. Irene is struck by the dreadful living conditions in the slums. She meets a penniless woman named Passerotto (Giulietta Masina) in a shack by a river and helps her care for a large brood of ragged kids. Irene secures a factory job for Passerotto, and even fills in for her for the first day. She's horrified by the factory's working conditions, which she sees as slavery. Irene then cares for a prostitute who is dying of tuberculosis.

A priest who befriends her likewise eventually backs away from her when his appeals to her to submit to God are not reciprocated, and Isabella has a long conversation with him about the "true mercies" of God while the poor suffer needlessly and no one does anything about it.

As a result of helping these people, she spends less and less time at home. George and Irene's mother are concerned about her unexplained absences from the house, and George accuses her of having an affair with Andrea, which causes her to leave him. She is eventually picked up by the police after helping a boy who had committed a theft evade arrest (she had told him to turn himself in). Irene is so shocked by George's overreaction that she doesn't try to argue with him, but her husband and the authorities decide to put her in a mental institution, and he abandons her.

She is finally brought before the review board on whether she will stay there permanently. It is decided that her philosophy of helping people is dangerous for the fragile post-war society, and therefore she becomes locked up there permanently. The people she has helped, along with many she hasn't, stand outside her cell window, praying to her as their new "patron saint." The last image is of Irene's face looking down at them through the bars with a hint of a smile.



Ingrid Bergman won the 1953 Silver Ribbon award from the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists for her performance. In addition, Roberto Rossellini won the International Award and was nominated for the Golden Lion award at the 1952 Venice Film Festival.


Unfortunately, the original Italian version was censored by the government, and the resulting versions of this film have been either censored or heavily re-edited worldwide, such as:

  • An opening reference to a labor strike was removed.
  • Rossellini included dialogue to the effect that the poor family's father is unemployable because he worked for Mussolini's all-Fascist railroad union.
  • In some versions during a party his parents are hosting, he commits suicide by leaping from a window.
  • The English-language release skipped over huge sections of dialogue, especially as Irene tries to voice her theory that one's love should reach beyond one's family or social group.

When the Los Angeles-based film festival Filmex tried to show it in 1974 they ended up screening a 16mm print of a film titled The Greatest Love, a clumsy dub job that removed any references to labor strikes and once again abridged key dialogues between Ingrid Bergman's character and a priest.

In 2013, Criterion finally released it as part of a three-Blu-Ray set titled "3 Films By Roberto Rossellini starring Ingrid Bergman." Criterion's version of the film was completely restored from surviving elements and is finally intact, and a new English subtitle translation is also included. As part of it's extra features it shows some of the the many glaring edits and omissions that were done to the film, and how passages were altered to eliminate controversial content.


  1. ^ "Roberto Rossellini: A Retrospective - Series Details - Europa '51". UCLA Film and Television Archive. Retrieved 2007-03-13. 

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