Ingrid Bergman is one of the most revered and accomplished actresses of the twentieth century. She remains an icon in film culture, her smile still radiant and bursting from the screen, her beautiful face filling with doubts and pre-occupations in extreme close-ups. Bergman fell in love with Roberto Rossellini as they were working on the film “Stromboli”. Both were married to other people when she had a child with him out of wedlock. This created a scandal so large that Bergman was denounced in florid terms on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
Her father was a painter and photographer and he wanted her to be an opera singer, so he took her to the opera, but she had no voice for it. Going to the opera is what made her fall in love with the theater. Like her character, Karin in ‘Stromboli,’ Ingrid Bergman found herself ostracized in real life from Hollywood and America after making this film with her director/lover Roberto Rossellini. Their affair and out-of-wedlock child caused a scandal that found Bergman unable to work in the United States for six years. In the film, Bergman portrays a Lithuanian refugee, released from an internment camp when she marries Antonio (Mario Vitali), and Italian and former prisoner of war. They go to live in his home in Stromboli, an almost deserted village located on a small volcanic island off the coast of southern Italy.
Marriage and life in the poor village is far from what Karin envisioned for herself. Most goals who were born there have left. The ones who remain are a stoic group unwelcoming to strangers. Her attempts to brighten up their home by decorating are met with indifference from Antonio. When she becomes friends with Mario, the good-looking lighthouse attendant, Antonio, upon discovering their friendship, beats her and locks her in their home. She knows she can no longer take this life of isolation. She takes off toward the recently erupted volcano with thoughts of committing suicide.
Stromboli was released in 1950 and it is safe to say its reception was a reflection of the era. Bosley Crowthers, writing in The New York Times the weekend after the film opened, opined: “As to the artistic merit of “Stromboli,” that is way to state. In this corner’s estimation, it has absolutely none. As a matter of fact, it is dumbfounding that two people with such acknowledged gifts as Mr. Rossellinni and Miss Bergman should have spent their talents touch an end.” Crowthers did get one thing correct. Stromboli’s bleak volcanic isle. He is practically wrong about everything else in his review, from the “Czechoslovak” woman when Bergman’s character clearly states she is from Lithuania to a rambling story undistinguished by inventiveness.