Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Roman Holiday (USA, 1953)

 Some films age well, some don’t but there are films that only get better as time passes. The story of a princess who spent a day out without the obligations of her secluded life may seem a bit dull for nowadays’ standards. But the discovery of small pleasures in life (the first ice cream, pair of shoes, haircut, etc.) and the carefree relaxation and touching human connections make this film more relevant than ever in world where those feelings seem scarce. It is also a witness of life in post world war 2 era and of birth of a new star, Audrey Hepburn, who is on the main role, and won an Oscar in for this film, in her first major Hollywood role.

The young princess Ann of an unidentified European kingdom is on a diplomatic visit to Italy while on a goodwill tour of European capitals. We can see right in the beginning that her life consists in strict protocols and social obligations without opportunity for entertainment and she is bored with all that, longing to enjoy life without those impositions. We can also see the scenes made in magnificent sceneries, beautiful clothing, sophisticated places, everything emphasizing the luxury life of the princess. In her first diplomatic commitment, which mostly consisted in shaking hands of foreign dignitaries, she was always polite, gentle, did everything expected from her, but she was clearly impatient with all stiffness. 

After the social gathering, princess Ann is seeing in her bedroom behaving silly and frantically like a youth of her own age and then all her obligations gave her an anxiety attack. A doctor was called, who administered her injectable sedatives so the princess could relax and sleep well because she would have lots of commitments on the following day. After being left alone in the bedroom and hearing the sound of people partying she gathered courage to venture outside and explore Rome on her own. She leaves unnoticed after jumping inside a truck.

Unfortunately to Ann the sedative took effect a little too late and she fell asleep on the street at night. Joe Bradley, expatriate reporter for the "American News Service" finds her without having any idea that she was a princess and thinking she is just a random drunk woman. As Joe could not know where she lived he takes her to his house to recover. Meanwhile, it was announced in the press a sudden disease of the princess as a cover up for her disappearance and her press interview had to be canceled.

Joe Bradley was one of journalists supposed to be in the interview, but he overslept and lied to his boss about being there, as he was not aware of the cancellation at first. After a short time his boss told Joe that the princess was weak and therefore her interview was canceled and showed this news in the newspaper. When Joe saw the picture of the princess in the newspaper he instantly recognized her as the girl sleeping in her apartment. He called his Irving, his bon vivant photographer friend so they could both write a reportage on the princess. 

When the princess wake up, she take a shower and left Joe’s apartment. Having never carried any money with her, she borrows some with Joe and went outside. Joe follows her. At first Ann is not used with those crowds around her and the frantic pace of the big city, but she adjusts after some minutes. She buys a pair of shoes, have her hair cut and then Joe met her and they have an ice cream together. In order to gain time while he waits for Irving to arrive, he volunteers to show the city of Rome to Anna and she accepts it. He shows her lots of touristic attractions and have the best fun, including a rather awkward scooter riding by both Ann and Joey, which caused lots of physical losses for people around. After spending a while at the police department they are finally released after Joe lying that he and Ann were getting married.

After being released from the police station, they attend a party by the sea in the evening. When things were so nice and relaxing at the party with people dancing and chatting and Ann even met the hairdresser who cut her hair that afternoon, it arrives agents from the secret service of Ann’s country in the party. Her father had asked for the secret service look for Ann and bring her back home. Ann recognizes the agents, tries to run away and then there is a generalized fighting with both Ann and Joe falling inside the river. After they leave the river and Joe heats her up, they kissed, but stop soon when the both realize it is something inappropriate for a princess.

It was all fun and games but 24 hours have passed since Ann had left and everyone was worried with her in the country and her disappearance have already become a diplomatic problem. She knew she had to return to her headquarters without delay. After taking a shower in Joe’s apartment she asked him to drive her to the corner of the embassy of her country in Italy. He does it and it is quite painful for them to say good bye because it was clear they would never see each other again. 

Anna returns and is scolded for having disappeared like that and, as she was back, she had to meet her official commitments in Italy, including the press interview. Upon her arrival in the interview, Ann recognizes both Joe Bradley and Irving in the press area and gets shocked. However, they do not have any intention of publishing the story, it is only that she is not aware of it yet. Acting out of protocol Ann says that Rome was her favorite city among all others she has been recently visiting in Europe and she also expressed her wish to greet the journalists with a handshake. When she greets both Joe and Irving she gets to know to which agency they work for and receive the pictures that Irving took that day and it is stated to her that her day out would remain a secret. And then she leaves Italy and everyone return to their respective worlds after having the time of their lives.

This film remains as a beautiful witness of post World War 2 life and the recognition of importance of a person’s individual freedoms and small pleasures in life. How important it is to enjoy those small pleasures, have good quality of life and healthy congregates with both people and places around us. And how days apparently common can be unforgettable times. In an era when things get  increasingly dangerous and the connection with simple things are sometimes forgotten it is a pleasure to see that people do not need too much to be happy and enjoy life.