Review: ‘The War of the Volcanoes’

Film divas and volcanoes rumble in Francesco Patierno's docu, which details how neorealist helmer Roberto Rosselini left his star and lover for a still-married superstar.

Film divas and volcanoes rumble in Francesco Patierno’s docu “The War of the Volcanoes,” which details how neorealist helmer Roberto Rosselini left his star and lover, Anna Magnani, for Hollywood’s still-married superstar, Ingrid Bergman. The resulting scandals and films, “Stromboli” and “Volcano,” are all well-known, though informed cinephiles and general auds alike will likely be charmed by Patierno’s playful approach to the filmic and amorous developments, recounted in an Italian v.o. and illustrated with archival material and extremely well-chosen clips from the filmographies of Magnani and Bergman. Tight 52-minute edit makes this ideal for fests and the tube.

Story, basically a titanic struggle between the looser, more tempestuous dolce vita and the morally upright, early postwar American dream, is so full of glamour and drama it’s a mystery no one has fictionalized it yet. As evident here, the story arc, plot twists and complex and fascinating leads could hardly be improved upon. With its diva tantrums edited in from the stars’ other films, dusty historical veracity takes a backseat to more engaging emotional truths. Assembly is sharp, though a little more on American reactions to the affair wouldn’t have hurt.

The War of the Volcanoes



A Cinecitta-Luce release of a Todos contentos y yo tambien presentation and production, in association with Cinecitta-Luce, Rai Cinema, Wide House, Centro Studi Eloliano. (International sales: Wide, Paris.) Produced by Andrea Patierno, Clara Del Monaco. Directed by Francesco Patierno. Written by Chiara Laudani, Patierno, based on the book by Alberto Anile and Maria Gabriella Giannice.


Camera (B&W/color, HD); editor, Renata Salvator; music, Santi Pulvirentu; sound, Riccardo Spagnol. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Venice Classics -- Documentaries), Sept. 2, 2012. (In Toronto Film Festival -- TIFF Cinematheque.) Running time: 52 MIN.


Roberto Rosselini, Ingrid Bergman, Anna Magnani. Narrator: Ilaria Stagni.

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