When Fable and Fact Interact [INDIA MATRI BHUMI]
From the Chicago Reader (August 31, 2007). — J.R.
INDIA MATRI BHUMI ****
DIRECTED BY ROBERTO ROSSELLINI
WRITTEN BY ROSSELLINI, SONALI SENROY DAS GUPTA, FEREYDOUN HOVEYDA, AND JEAN L’HOTE
WITH A NONPROFESSIONAL, UNCREDITED CAST
From the beginning film has owed part of its fascination to its ambiguous marriage of documentary and fiction. Just after the war Roberto Rossellini came to prominence as a filmmaker through combinations of this kind. His best-known early works, Open City (1945) and Paisan (1946), are associated with the style popularly known as Italian neorealism, but through the 50s Rossellini experimented with increasingly adventurous mixes of reality and invention, culminating in 1959 with India Matri Bhumi, whose title means “India, Mother Earth.” It’s a sublime symbiosis of fable and nonfiction that poetically inter-relates humans and animals, city and village, society and nature.
At war’s end Rossellini was primarily concerned with the human devastation in Italy and Germany. But once he began working with Ingrid Bergman, with whom he was living after their affair busted up both their marriages, domestic issues started coming to the fore, particularly in such features as Europa 51, Voyage to Italy, and Fear. The Bergman films flopped both critically and commercially, though for the young critics of Cahiers du Cinema they were models of personal independent filmmaking that would help spark the French New Wave. Read more