Roberto Rossellini, Italy, 1950


As impressive as it can be, the strength of this scene does not only reside in the direct filming, nor on the length, from a tonnara (traditional tuna net fishing), nor in its only documentary value. It relies most importantly on the film-maker’s choice, to make us discover it at the same time as his character, Karin, Played by the Hollywood star Ingrid Bergman. Rossellini has placed his actress in the place of a spectator, without any other directions but to watch. She is never on the same shot as the fishermen but alone, facing the group of men gathered around the effort. He catches in that way, through reverse shots on her face, the tragic and relentless nature of the scene taking place before her eyes, and ours. He multiplies shots and change of axis, the editing rhythm accelerates, as the trap closes on the tunas, agonising on the boats. Karin/Ingrid Bergman, like the spectator, will see everything: the wait, the slow lifting up of fishing nets, in rhythm with the sailors’ songs, nearly ritualised, until the fish killing, speared by harpoons, in an ultimate savage and brutal close fight. The cruelty of the show acts like a revelation, nearly creating a contagious effect; she is splashed by the foam invading the screen; stunned, astounded, confronted to the reality in its power and its oddness. Whilst the animals desperately fight to escape the fish trap, Karin realises the choice she must now accept to the end: share the life of a community which she is a stranger to.