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The Wanderer

Italy, 1948 (MIFF 1954, Programme 3)

Director: Roberto Rossellini

With "The Wanderer" Rossellini abandoned for the first time his theme of postwar conditions to make a simple and beautiful film. It is dedicated to the art of Anna Magnani, who is the only professional actress in the cast and is never absent from the screen. Her part is that of a simple-minded goat-herd of devout religious faith who, when seduced by a passing tramp, thinks that a miracle has occurred. The villagers are at first tolerant of her delusion, but finally turn on her and force her from the village. She struggles to the little church at the top of the mountain and in its porch finds shelter and relief. The simple faith of this ignorant girl stands out in full contrast to the harsh disbelief of the villagers in her dreams. Certain episodes of the film, the mock procession of the people driving her from the village and the scenes inside and outside the church, show Rossellini at his finest. The film, as a whole, is a parable of faith directed at cruelty and intolerance wherever they occur.

The film was originally shown in Britain at the Edinburgh Festival, and received high praise from the leading critics of New York. However , its uncompromising attach on inhumanity and self-righteousness, couples with the unorthodox treatment of religion, led to an outcry against it. It was attached as sacriligious and was banned from being exhibited any further in New York. A test case was made of this decision and the final verdict of the Supreme Court was that alleged sacrilege as such was not sufficient cause to ban a film. Although the film was also originally banned in Australia, this decision has been revoked and Melbourne audiences will now have their first chance to see the centre of all the controversy.

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