• George Sanders and Ingrid Bergman in Voyage to Italy

When the Music Box Theatre presented its 70-millimeter series a few months ago, I was most impressed with those movies that used the large-scale format for metaphysical reasons. “The high-resolution film renders things with such specificity that even minute details appear to have been prearranged,” I wrote, going on to say that The Master, 2001, and Playtime took advantage of this quality to “ponder whether everything may be part of some mysterious cosmic order.” In other words, these movies are about that which is bigger than you; big-screen projection is essential to what they’re saying.

I could say the same thing about Roberto Rossellini’s Voyage to Italy, which is screening this week at the Gene Siskel Film Center in a new DCP restoration. The movie culminates with something like a miracle, when an unhappy married couple who have just decided to divorce suddenly rediscover their need for one another. Little about their behavior before this suggests that the movie would end this way; even when they fight, they remain well-spoken and reserved. Rossellini prefigures the extraordinary conclusion with images of the relics of Naples and the ruins of Pompeii—products of civilization that bind people to one another and endure through the ages. Why should love, another triumph of humankind, be any different? This isn’t a rational argument, but admirers of Voyage to Italy find it persuasive all the same. As André Bazin wrote of Rossellini’s Europa ’51, “How could we remain insensitive to the intensity of a mise-en-scène in which the universe seems to be organized along spiritual lines of force, to the point that it sets them off as manifestly as iron filings in a magnetic field?”