Between Heaven and Hell: On Melodramatic Issues in Rossellini’s Stromboli

Vincenzo Maggitti


This article is focused on a film by Roberto Rossellini, Stromboli (1949) whose title comes from the island, off the northwest coasts of Sicily, on which the film is set. Given the thematic relevance of borders in the post‐war drama of a foreign refugee who moves to the unknown island with a husband met through the barbed wire of the camp, the article analyzes to what extent this theme is rebounded in the unstable genre of the film.

In Stromboli a coexistence of tropoi belonging to different traditions of melodrama can be spotted, tracing back to the theatrical origins of the genre, as detailed in Jean‐Marie Tommaseau´s recent study. But one must take into account, nevertheless, the documentary‐drive that inspires the film, linking it to Rossellini´s approach to the new unmapped reality of the Italian landscape, recently discussed by Angelo Restivo in his essay on Italian cinema during the economic boom. The interplay of these theoretical references in Stromboli can bring to the fore the theme of space and time borders as more relevant than the traditional critical filing of the film as a study of loneliness, together with the other four features made with actress Ingrid Bergman. The compounded analysis results in a melodramatic re‐vision of the film, that can entail the ending shift towards the holy and the sacred often dismissed as improper. The article comments on the film conveying melodrama into a field supposedly outside of its genre concerns.


Melodrama; Roberto Rossellini; Neo-realism; Volcano; Ingrid Bergman

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