98 L'avventura

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Sloper
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Re: L'Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960)

#101 Post by Sloper » Thu Jan 19, 2017 11:13 am

It took me ages to get around to watching my first Antonioni. I was vaguely prejudiced against him, assuming I wouldn’t warm to what sounded like very cold, pretentious films. In my teens I relied on a handful of film books to teach me about all the films I hadn’t seen yet, and some of these happened to be rather down on Antonioni. There was Leslie Halliwell, a notorious grouch who called L’avventura an ‘aimless, overlong parable with lots of vague significance...it made its director a hero of the highbrows’. Geoff Andrew in Time Out was just as off-putting: ‘if it once seemed the ultimate in arty, intellectually chic movie-making, the film now looks all too studied and remote a portrait of emotional sterility’. I seem to remember Pauline Kael giving damning reviews of La notte and Red Desert (‘boredom in Ravenna, and it seeps into the viewer’s bones’), although I know she had liked L’avventura on its original release.

Discovering Carl Dreyer helped to broaden my horizons a bit – I found myself enjoying films like Michael and Gertrud in ways I hadn’t experienced before. (I’ve had a similar revelation in the last couple of years while getting into Rivette. When there are no more of these discoveries to be made, I’ll know it’s time to die.) So I borrowed L’avventura from my university’s library, and watched it on a tiny CRT set while laid out with a bad back and suffering from depression. It turned out to be the perfect way to experience this film for the first time!

From the beginning, I was drawn in by the unassuming beauty of Antonioni’s images, not just the individual compositions but the way they flowed into each other. He’s a master of imbuing images, sounds, and later on colours, with a rhythm and dynamism. It’s sometimes said that every frame in his films could work well in its own right as a still photograph, which is true, but that frame would also lose most of the power it had in its original context. When it came to the sequence where we see the characters spreading out over the island in search of Anna, I was practically gasping in wonder – not just at the sheer aesthetic beauty of the images, but also at the emotional depths contained in them. Not to get too maudlin, but loneliness has always been the dominant factor in my experience of life – especially the kind where you become most deeply aware of solitude while in the company of people you’re supposed to feel connected to – and those shots of the island seemed to express something about the loneliness of the human condition that I had never seen expressed before, and that could never be expressed in words. There are lots of moments like that in the film: I think of Sandro running to leap onto the train, and then that long desolate station he gets off at a few minutes later; or that creepy deserted town he and Claudia visit, and that famous dolly shot through the alley towards the church as they drive away; the disorienting close-ups of couples making love, first Anna and Sandro, then Claudia and Sandro. When I saw Blow-Up for the first time, I had a similar reaction to the shots of David Hemmings creeping between the trees in the park as he photographed Vanessa Redgrave. In a scene apparently drained of any emotional resonance, those high-angle shots were weirdly moving. It was as if some previously hidden truth about how people fail to connect with each other had been captured on film. I’ve loved films all my life, but I never knew they could do this kind of thing.

If you described moments like these, or the use of the trees in the final scene of La notte, to someone who hadn’t seen the films, they would sound ham-fistedly symbolic, but again there is something very unassuming about the way Antonioni composes these images. Bergman used to plan his camera placements the night before shooting, and then discuss them in detail with his cinematographer in the morning. Antonioni would deliberately not think about the scene in advance, arrive on the set in the morning and just spend time there on his own for half an hour, getting a feel for the place, and then compose his shots in a careful but largely instinctive way. I was kind of surprised to learn how much, by his own account anyway, Antonioni worked from ‘gut feeling’ when putting together these seemingly studied compositions, but it also helped to explain why these images had had such an emotional impact on me, in a way that Bergman’s – for all that I adore his films and find them very beautiful – had not.

I’d never heard about how good Antonioni was at observing people and relationships, or about how good the acting was in his films (at least at this point in his career). The world of L’avventura, and the relations between the people and objects in it, feel richly and carefully crafted, but at the same time profoundly authentic (however ‘heightened’ they may be at times), in a way that I would compare to William Wyler. Like Antonioni’s, Wyler’s films can sometimes seem cold at first glance, but the more attention you pay them, the more deeply rewarding they become, until even a very quiet, inconsequential moment between two characters becomes enormously powerful. When you watch Anna with Claudia, Sandro with Anna, and later Claudia with Sandro, you can feel how much work has been invested into getting these interactions right. It’s easy to criticise Antonioni for ‘over-directing’ actors and treating them like objects to be moved around the frame, but this process is only de-humanising when it’s appropriate for it to be so. As domino says, the film is exploring recognisably human anxieties (including anxieties about being de-humanised), and Antonioni can afford to be this controlling because he understands these anxieties deeply. He just knows, miraculously, how to embody them through a story, through images, and through the movements of the actors.

Knives’ comparison with Bergman above is very interesting, and in many ways I agree – yes, Bergman’s films feel nakedly egocentric / autobiographical much of the time, unflinching in their exploration of intense emotions. And yes, Antonioni is often a kind of ‘archaeologist’ when it comes to these same emotions. Mr Sausage’s Dante/Shakespeare comparison is very apt. But as with those two authors, I feel like the more ‘detached’ one is also the less ‘cerebral’ in some ways, and better at actually eliciting an emotional response from his audience. Bergman’s characters talk and talk and talk, and the talk is wonderful if you can keep up with it, but I think this is part of what stops me from feeling deeply moved by most of Bergman’s films. They make me think about emotions and relationships, and other themes that also concern Antonioni, like perception, reality, creativity, truth and so on. But Antonioni makes me feel something about these issues first and foremost; the thinking tends to come afterwards. His characters are not so talkative, nor so articulate, and in a way are therefore more recognisably human. I know lots of people who are a bit like them – I know none at all who are like the characters in Bergman (though I sort of wish I did).

Consider two similar moments (some very oblique spoilers for Winter Light and Red Desert here):
SpoilerShow
the minister breaking down on the floor of the church in Winter Light (‘I had this fleeting hope...’), and Giuliana breaking down and clutching the chair in Corrado’s room in Red Desert (‘I’ll never be cured, never...’). Both are incredibly powerful moments, but they affect me in different ways. I’ve experienced both emotional states to some extent: confronting the meaninglessness of a godless existence, confronting the incurability of my personal Babadook. In a sense they’re equally terrifying experiences. But I feel involved in Giuliana’s sense of panic in a way I just don’t feel involved in Tomas’s. That’s not a criticism of Bergman, I just think he’s asking for a different kind of involvement.
Perhaps it’s because Bergman always seems to be talking about himself, and because his films are so theatrical, playful and self-aware. In a strange way, his joy in the creative process (which I think is the source of much of the warmth domino mentioned above) means that he’s never quite showing us ‘reality’, even in the documentary-like Scenes from a Marriage – it’s always a kind of theatrical simulation designed to facilitate the exploration and discussion of the relevant emotional and spiritual problems. There’s far less playfulness and warmth in Antonioni, who for all his use of artifice is trying to photograph that ‘terrible thing in reality’ that Giuliana talks about, or that the photographer in Blow-Up is obsessively trying to get at. It’s not a thing that can really be discussed or articulated, it can only be – as domino says – embodied in the moving images Antonioni shows us. The people we see in his films don’t appear to be playing at loneliness and alienation, they appear to embody it, to be it in fact.

While we’re on the subject of Bergman, it’s worth mentioning that he wasn’t always so negative about L’avventura. In one interview – I think it’s on Criterion’s Persona release – he talks about the necessity, for an artist, of having something to say. If you have nothing to say, don’t try and invent something; if you do have something to say, do anything necessary in order to say it. He cites the example of L’avventura, refers to the incredible difficulties Antonioni had in getting it made, but speaks admiringly of the end result, which expresses what its maker intended. I think that’s the same interview where he says he would usually rather watch a James Bond film than Antonioni, but still...

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Re: L'Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960)

#102 Post by Mr Sausage » Thu Jan 19, 2017 2:06 pm

Sloper wrote:His characters are not so talkative, nor so articulate, and in a way are therefore more recognisably human. I know lots of people who are a bit like them – I know none at all who are like the characters in Bergman (though I sort of wish I did).
Maybe this says something about our differing reactions, but I grew up around intensely verbal and articulate people, who even in the grip of rage or hysteria would produce this tumble of perfectly formed expressive language that seemed to capture how they were feeling in all its complexity. Consequently, people standing about in confused silence is more alien to me. I know there are people like this, but I don't recognize them in my own life.

I feel the intensity of Bergman's films, an intensity that builds and builds into it bursts forward as a piercing or even devastating eloquence. I feel the intensity of very intelligent, very insightful people whose intelligence and insight is all the more terrible for how it allows them to know precisely how they are broken, how they hate, how they are empty, or lonely, or lost--and they can't but express that to you in words that are destructive or simply too late. In the end they cannot hide from themselves, from being laid bare by their own expressive facility.

Bergman's key difference from Antonioni is that Bergman draws everything out; he externalizes emotion by laying it bear and letting it seep into the environment. Antonioni also externalizes, but it's more analogical. He tries to find geometric and architectural equivalents, say, for how his characters are feeling, and allows that to generate the emotion and suggest what the rather passive, unemotive characters are feeling. Because the characters themselves don't seem quite to know what's so off about their lives, they aren't able to communicate it, so the heavy-lifting has to come from somewhere else, in this case visual analogies. Bergman prefers the visual expression to be a continuation of the dramatic expression. It provides context and intensity, but it usually isn't meant to clarify something obscure at the level of drama.
Sloper wrote:Perhaps it’s because Bergman always seems to be talking about himself, and because his films are so theatrical, playful and self-aware. In a strange way, his joy in the creative process (which I think is the source of much of the warmth domino mentioned above) means that he’s never quite showing us ‘reality’, even in the documentary-like Scenes from a Marriage – it’s always a kind of theatrical simulation designed to facilitate the exploration and discussion of the relevant emotional and spiritual problems. There’s far less playfulness and warmth in Antonioni, who for all his use of artifice is trying to photograph that ‘terrible thing in reality’ that Giuliana talks about, or that the photographer in Blow-Up is obsessively trying to get at. It’s not a thing that can really be discussed or articulated, it can only be – as domino says – embodied in the moving images Antonioni shows us. The people we see in his films don’t appear to be playing at loneliness and alienation, they appear to embody it, to be it in fact.
Great point, although I think Bergman comes from a tradition where reality is explored through exaggeration and distortion. You aren't going to get neo-realism ala La Terra Trema even in Bergman's most 'documentary' work because he feels he has to hold a magnifying glass to things in order to draw out what he sees as most real in them. So something like The Seventh Seal has such a sure sense of the physical texture of the mediaeval world, but it accomplishes that feeling by making the details especially sensuous and available to experience. So you come away with an intense impression of the physical world, with its mud, cold, beer kegs, wind, flagellation, sun, grass, etc., but it's an impression whose intensity you're not going to get just living in the world--that or any other--because few people are that intensely focused on the physical texture of the world happening around them--they're too busy living it. So Bergman brings you closer to reality while also bringing his film away from it, paradoxically.

Antonioni--I don't know, he makes the world seem strange and separate, which may in fact be how it feels to a lot of people, at least in the way Antonioni constructs. But in some ways it's not quite reality, either. It's like reality has ceased to be real in some obscure, inexpressible way. Like there's a distressing absence at its heart which its characters not only feel in general, but also pursue at the level of plot (missing girl, photographed body). It's a bit like how the characters in George Perec's A Void are unsettled by, and pursue, that absence in the text itself, an absence they'll never be able to get outside of the text to actually observe. The absence that torments them lies in the fabric of their reality, a fabric they'll never have perspective enough to know and understand.

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Re: L'Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960)

#103 Post by xoconostle » Thu Jan 19, 2017 7:16 pm

Although I'd seen Zabriskie Point at a young age and have long been aware of Antonioni's importance, it wasn't until a few months ago that I finally saw L'Avventura. Despite a love of epic films, Italian cinema in general, and the understanding that straightforward narrative isn't essential to good moviemaking (La Dolce Vita has been a personal favorite for decades,) L'Avventura threw me for a bit of a loop. Perhaps I approached it too literally-minded. Although I knew to expect
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the disappearance of Anna,
the progressive unimportance of that event was difficult to wrap my head around. I suspect this is a common first-time reaction. Nevertheless by the end of the movie I felt an overwhelming sense of having witnessed not only a breakthrough in film history but also a profound existential meditation. I knew it was great art, but felt a need to digest and assimilate with the understanding that it'd be better understood on successive viewings. The film kept returning to my thoughts and grew on me in the weeks after viewing, fading initial anxieties about how exactly to regard it. The experience helped to set expectations for further exploration such that when I then viewed La Notte, it was easier to simply enjoy the ride, which I did immensely. I'm currently midway through L'Eclisse, and feel much more comfortable with the director's multilayered yet cooly paced method. Once I've tackled all the other CC Antonioni films waiting on the shelf, I'll return to L'Avventura better prepared, and am confident I'll love it. Sometimes the best and most beloved works of art seem opaque or even elicit frustration at first, only to reveal their depths and riches with time and revisitation.

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Re: L'Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960)

#104 Post by matrixschmatrix » Thu Jan 19, 2017 9:16 pm

Mr Sausage wrote:
Sloper wrote:His characters are not so talkative, nor so articulate, and in a way are therefore more recognisably human. I know lots of people who are a bit like them – I know none at all who are like the characters in Bergman (though I sort of wish I did).
Maybe this says something about our differing reactions, but I grew up around intensely verbal and articulate people, who even in the grip of rage or hysteria would produce this tumble of perfectly formed expressive language that seemed to capture how they were feeling in all its complexity. Consequently, people standing about in confused silence is more alien to me. I know there are people like this, but I don't recognize them in my own life.

I feel the intensity of Bergman's films, an intensity that builds and builds into it bursts forward as a piercing or even devastating eloquence. I feel the intensity of very intelligent, very insightful people whose intelligence and insight is all the more terrible for how it allows them to know precisely how they are broken, how they hate, how they are empty, or lonely, or lost--and they can't but express that to you in words that are destructive or simply too late. In the end they cannot hide from themselves, from being laid bare by their own expressive facility.
I think this may get at some of why I also respond so much more strongly to Bergman- as I suspect my presence on this board will show, I am someone who literally does not know what I am feeling until I am able to verbalize it, sometimes at great length, sometimes only in opposition to an inchoate feeling of wrongness when I see a position I feel is wrong. Bergman's characters are like this (though not always; Max von Sydow in The Virgin Spring, at least in my memory, expresses himself through ritualistic action, and cannot justify his actions in words) and in something like Autumn Sonata words are often used only tangentially specifically because to name a thing will mean to reify it, to make it undeniable. The drama is in the conflict between leaving the thing unsaid and therefore uncertain or putting it into words and making the underlying conflict forever real.

In Antonioni, things aren't unnamed because naming them would make them impossible to take back but because they are inherently inchoate and unformed. Conversations are tangential and uncertain because that is an accurate reflection of reality, not because there is some central, unnamed core which must eventually explode into a torrent of words. Nobody is all that interested in trying to find this inner meaning, or in much of anything else; indeed, if there is a central conflict or idea, the act of looking for it will only make it less real. I cannot argue with this as a depiction of reality- I think it is unquestionably a real mode of being- but it feels less like how I experience the world, even when I am in a mood of anomie and aimlessness. In Bergman, self knowledge is a real and terrible thing, and always there is the possibility of finding it and being destroyed by it. In Antonioni, it is so unreal that one questions whether anyone has much of a self to begin with.

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Re: L'Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960)

#105 Post by Mr Sausage » Thu Jan 19, 2017 10:32 pm

Unnecessarily highbrow thought that just popped into my head reading your post: Bergman and Antonioni both have completely opposite reactions to the final line of Wittgenstein's Tractatus.

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Re: L'Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960)

#106 Post by Sloper » Fri Jan 20, 2017 4:28 pm

I’m the same, matrix. And Mr S, that’s very interesting about your upbringing. Mine was pretty much the opposite: I grew up surrounded by people who regarded any attempt to reflect on or express feelings or ideas (in any kind of detail) with deep suspicion, and sometimes even with anger; responses tended to be along the lines of ‘what’s the point?’ or ‘get a fucking life’. My dad taught me at an early age that people, and of course women especially, don’t mean what they say, and have to be second-guessed – as if this were a natural and healthy basis for relationships! The natural way to communicate is through rhetorical gestures, insinuation, passive aggression, or when the mood takes you, primal, incoherent rage. You’d have bitter arguments going on for hours, late into the night, and it was often impossible to figure out what had set it off or what the hell anyone was talking about. You can imagine how happy I was to discover this forum ten or so years ago: a place where you’re positively encouraged to talk about every little thing at tedious length.

One of my favourite sequences in L’avventura is the one where Sandro and Claudia are staying at the hotel. Claudia is in a happy, affectionate mood – significantly, she’s singing along to a song that veers from ‘yes’ to ‘no’, and from ‘love’ to ‘hate’ – but Sandro rebuffs her and goes out for a walk. Upon being left alone, Claudia looks devastated, then gives a comical shrug with her hands in her pockets. Monica Vitti is brilliant at this stuff: like all the best clowns, she can do something funny and invest it with a deep sadness. See also her silly faces in the mirror towards the end. Outside, Sandro is belligerent and obnoxious, complaining that the church isn’t open on time, spilling ink on the young architect’s sketch in a fit of envious spite. Then he goes back to the hotel room and tries to force himself on a resistant Claudia. It’s a disturbing moment. She says she feels like she doesn’t know him. This is when the resentful Sandro says, ‘Aren’t you happy? You’re having a new fling / adventure [avventura nuova]’. Taken aback, she asks him what he means, and he says he was only joking, an ancient method of dodging responsibility for what you’ve just said. He insists on knowing why she doesn’t want to have sex, but she can’t tell him. She knows only too well that he doesn’t really want to talk about it, or about the fact (which she now brings up) that they’re supposed to be searching for Anna. His question is a rhetorical one, ‘Why can’t we just do it?’ The fact that she doesn’t ‘know him’ at this moment is an irrelevance, not a cause for concern but a cue for a dismissive joke: ‘surely having sex with a stranger is an amusing adventure for you?’

It’s worth questioning the way Antonioni delineates the differences between men and women, but I often think that my own family is populated by men who have no truck with self-examination and women who wearily go along with them because it’s the done thing – the ending of this film is ambiguous, of course, but it always strikes me as primarily tragic, a dysfunctional relationship that will endure for no particular reason, and without any real communication taking place.

It’s just like Sandro’s relationship with Anna, really. The only way to escape is to vanish off the face of the earth, as Anna does just after Sandro’s sarcastic remark on the island. He complains to her that there is no point in discussing things. ‘I don’t feel you anymore’, she says, just as Claudia will later say she doesn’t know him. ‘Even yesterday, you didn’t feel me?’ he retorts, alluding to their love-making. Like Claudia in the hotel room, Anna is horrified, and asks why he has to ‘dirty everything’. She’s not being a prude; it’s not that she thinks references to sex are automatically dirty. What’s horrifying is that he should think the mere memory of the sex act will do away with her anxieties, as if she’s supposed to respond, ‘Oh yes, come to think of it I do feel you, because we fucked yesterday.’ The conversation ends here. Sandro lies down on the rocks, Anna turns her face away from us towards the sea, and then we get that beautiful dissolve where Anna’s form seems to melt into the water, the shape of the rocks in the next shot vaguely echoing her outline. A tiny boat can be seen bobbing away from the island in the distance, but this could be anyone, and as far as we’re concerned Anna has simply dissolved. I feel like I understand her quite well: who wouldn’t want to just de-materialise in the face of this man’s absolute, unconquerable, sarcastic, shrugging refusal to communicate? I don’t mean to demonise Sandro, because I think he’s sort of a tragic character himself, and sympathetic in many ways. But I love this film for, among other things, the honesty and authenticity with which it explores a very common, but very hard-to-define relationship problem.

What’s been said about Bergman so far in this thread also helps to make Sandro’s attitude understandable, in a way: there is something terrifying about sorting through and articulating feelings and ideas, and about verbalising them out loud and thereby reifying them. I’ve always been interested by Bergman’s tendency to end his films on a note of relative peace and calm, where we retreat from the intensity and trauma of what we’ve seen into a coda that suggests some hope for the future, or some solace in contemplation of the past. I say ‘retreat’ because I often feel slightly frustrated by these endings. It seems unconvincing, at times, that people could come back from such terrible revelations and go on ‘loving’ each other, or being in any kind of relationship, or finding any pleasure in existence. On the other hand, I recognise that these are compromises we all make. Once you’ve said everything, once it’s all out in the open, what you’re left with is such a painful, complicated mess (that mess of misunderstandings that Sandro was so keen to avoid) that you sort of have to lapse back into a state of optimistic denial in order to go on living. In Bergman, of course, this is often a secular re-working of the concept of religious faith. Even if there is no God, we still have to believe in an indefinable, inexpressible form of love (or something like it) when everything falls apart, as it inevitably does sooner or later. Antonioni’s conclusions tend to be much bleaker than this, but they are similar in that they usually involve some kind of flight or escape, and come to rest on a note of transcendence – passing beyond the struggle to make sense of things through either words or images, and taking refuge in denial or annihilation, or a bit of both.

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Re: L'Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960)

#107 Post by matrixschmatrix » Fri Jan 20, 2017 4:56 pm

I think I agree that Bergman is ultimately, almost perversely more optimistic- I think because his characters are imbued with greater purpose, even that purpose is ultimately death or self destruction, there is less the hell of meaninglessness that tends to absorb Antonioni's. You're right that the relationships between men and women in his movies- I'm thinking of the first breakup scene in L'eclisse as well- have a similar sense of words circling around some greater, inner thing which is unsaid, and in L'avventura we (unusually) have some idea of what that thing is. But I think still that, for Antonioni at least, there's no possibility that real communication could happen; Vitti's relatively casual remark, responded to with a joke, would be the emotional climax of a Bergman movie, and would need an much more solid relationship behind it to justify itself.

One other difference I see is that,while both often will have a woman as a central character, Bergman seems much more to prioritize interactions between women, treating them as profound and as full of inherent drama as any other; Antonioni shows Vitti having friends, with whom her relationships are somewhat fraught, but it's hard to think of a movie of his in which an emotional fencing match between women is at the core the way it is for Persona or Autumn Sonata. I mean, look at the imitators- Interiors and Three Women. Which is not to praise Bergman as a great feminist, but to say that the view you ascribe to your father about women, which seems to argue a belief that they are, Contempt style, ultimately unknowable, would not fit Bergman's work so well.

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Re: L'Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960)

#108 Post by Rayon Vert » Sat Jan 21, 2017 6:11 pm

A few posters have mentioned this also, but I definitely don't find Antonioni cold or detached. In this film, which I watched again this week, the characters are very alive and emotional - Monica Vitti is always expressing or emoting - laughing, crying, etc. So is Sandro to a lesser extent. I'd say, however, that we aren't always aware exactly of why they are reacting the way they do, and it requires interpretation, using other cues, though that act of interpreting is bound to remain tentative. Like the end: what is the meaning of Monica's gesture towards Sandro, or his crying? Is he crying for her (them), or for himself in a more existential way, or is he finally accessing the reality of the loss of Anna? And is Claudia reaching out to him in a hesitant amorous way or as a gesture of compassion?

That first hour of the film at the island is so powerful for me that the next 1h23 or suffers a bit in comparison - and in the end I'm drawn a little more to when Antonioni goes further into abstraction (staying a bit more with objects or non-human-occupied landscapes) in a film like L'Eclisse. I really don't have the capacity to articulate what I feel when I watch these films, and I do encourage people that find they don't "get" Antonioni and are interested in trying to to listen to the commentary on this film by Gene Youngblood, who does a very good job of attempting to describe the power of this new way of filming and really of looking at the world. But I do find that Antonioni's style communicates a sense of extreme attentiveness to life in its phenomenological going-on (while being kept at bay, to a certain degree, from the phenomenology of human subjectivity), a kind of especially sensitive and enquiring awareness of everything that would get endangered by jumping into and getting immersed in characters' subjectivities. The sense of investigating a mystery that goes along with it (not specifically the mystery of the disappearance of Anna, but the mystery of apprehending/experiencing/knowing the world that is evidenced in all of his post-Il Grido films; in that way it makes sense that a lot of his films - The Passenger, Blowup - involve also a concrete mystery or investigation). It fills me with a certain awe and a specific sense of beauty, of seeing the ordinary world with renewed, more sensitive eyes.

This hasn't really been discussed so far, but what do people make of the themes of this film? If I remember correctly, Antonioni spoke of "sick Eros" and so on, and I'm not sure exactly what he meant, but all through the film the focus seems to be on amorous relationships (love, desire) and what is present or absent or inauthentic in the attempt to relate in this way. I think there's more evidence of this than presumed general existentialism about loneliness and lack of meaning or ground for existence, although all those things of course can possibly be interpreted in what happens or doesn't in those attempts at human connection through eros. We're presented with a series of couples right from the beginning, and they all treat each other quite poorly. (The older gentlemen who treats his younger-looking wife with open contempt, her later giving in to adultery with the young painter without the slightest moral concern, the other couple on the boat seeming to be involved in an almost exclusively sexual relationship). The Sandro-Claudia union seems to be an attempt to find an authentic relationship again, with Claudia mostly being the one working for the authenticity, with the end perhaps being ambiguous about the possibility of success. (Which L'Eclisse seems to study again in the Vitta-Delon pairing.) But all this is diffuse to me and I would welcome reading anybody who has a keener sense of having a grasp of what is going on here.

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Re: L'Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960)

#109 Post by Robin Davies » Sun Jan 22, 2017 9:18 am

Rayon Vert wrote:That first hour of the film at the island is so powerful for me that the next 1h23 or suffers a bit in comparison - and in the end I'm drawn a little more to when Antonioni goes further into abstraction (staying a bit more with objects or non-human-occupied landscapes) in a film like L'Eclisse. I really don't have the capacity to articulate what I feel when I watch these films, and I do encourage people that find they don't "get" Antonioni and are interested in trying to to listen to the commentary on this film by Gene Youngblood, who does a very good job of attempting to describe the power of this new way of filming and really of looking at the world. But I do find that Antonioni's style communicates a sense of extreme attentiveness to life in its phenomenological going-on (while being kept at bay, to a certain degree, from the phenomenology of human subjectivity), a kind of especially sensitive and enquiring awareness of everything that would get endangered by jumping into and getting immersed in characters' subjectivities. The sense of investigating a mystery that goes along with it (not specifically the mystery of the disappearance of Anna, but the mystery of apprehending/experiencing/knowing the world that is evidenced in all of his post-Il Grido films; in that way it makes sense that a lot of his films - The Passenger, Blowup - involve also a concrete mystery or investigation). It fills me with a certain awe and a specific sense of beauty, of seeing the ordinary world with renewed, more sensitive eyes.
Well said. This pretty much nails why I love Antonioni's work. I came to l'Avventura rather late, after seeing l'Eclisse, The Red Desert, Blow-up and The Passenger so I must admit it disappointed me a little on first viewing. It didn't seem quite as eerily abstract as those later films where his style had really crystallised. I've liked it more on repeated viewings though.

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Re: L'Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960)

#110 Post by artfilmfan » Sun Jan 22, 2017 2:02 pm

I've always liked this movie, from the first time I saw it (on the Criterion DVD when it came out). It tells a good story. Good acting and directing. And above all, beautiful visual compositions (made more beautiful by the black and white film). This is my second-favorite Italian film (behind La Notte).

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Re: L'Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960)

#111 Post by Sloper » Sun Jan 22, 2017 2:26 pm

That’s a great point, matrix, about the relationships between women. And yes, I agree that most of the really intense relationships in Bergman are those between women: The Silence and Cries and Whispers also spring to mind. Neither director is all that interested in male/male relations, and when we do see these they tend to be defined by indifference or competitive hostility – we see men failing to interact in any very meaningful way. Antonioni comes close to examining the fraught, complex bonds between his female characters in Le amiche and La notte, but even there he seems to step back and focus more on the failed heterosexual romances. He originally conceived Identification of a Woman as a kind of ‘homage’ to women, and to everything he admired about them. In that film, both Mavi and the woman at the swimming pool connect better with other women than with men. I think Niccolò fails to discover the secrets of these relationships, not because there is anything inherently ‘unknowable’ about them, nor because women ‘move in mysterious ways’, but because he is a man, and specifically a man trying to ‘identify’ and analyse women, rather than connect with them in any mutual way. Perhaps he is shut out, like Sandro, because of the particular way in which he sexualises women – something the film itself is complicit in. Still, Antonioni doesn’t see women as naturally deceptive or predatory. They don’t say one thing when they mean another. He said they were subtler, more ‘uneasy’ filters of reality than men, better at ‘making sacrifices and feeling love’ (whatever that means). As you say, he’s a long way from being a feminist, but his female characters tend to be far more articulate and direct in expressing feelings than his men are.
Rayon Vert wrote:I do find that Antonioni's style communicates a sense of extreme attentiveness to life in its phenomenological going-on (while being kept at bay, to a certain degree, from the phenomenology of human subjectivity), a kind of especially sensitive and enquiring awareness of everything that would get endangered by jumping into and getting immersed in characters' subjectivities.
That’s a really incisive explanation of Antonioni’s seemingly ‘distant’ approach, and the reasons behind it. This is why everything looks and feels a little different and more intense after you’ve been watching one of these films.
Rayon Vert wrote:If I remember correctly, Antonioni spoke of "sick Eros" and so on, and I'm not sure exactly what he meant.
I’ve always struggled to grasp this as well. Here’s my take on it, for what it’s worth.

Antonioni talked about how we’re in the grip of various old, outdated morals, especially about love. Our attitude to love has become sick and obsessive because of this failure to shake off old ideas that are not suited to the modern world. We are aware that something is bothering us and we (perhaps men especially) react impulsively, violently, and uselessly. We try to analyse our emotions in the belief that this might help, but it doesn’t, because we have not found new ways of thinking about love or relating to each other. He said that attitudes will change as time goes on, and that perhaps concepts like jealousy will become outdated. You might think that he’s envisioning a kind of ‘free love’ future, where everyone can have promiscuous, guilt-free sex, and I do think there’s some truth in this; but it’s also more complex. The idea that love should bind people together on some spiritual level, and that they should then feel tied and obligated to each other, is certainly one of the outmoded ideas Antonioni is referring to. But he’s also fearful of the alternative, in which love takes place between individuals who are conscious of their own absolute separation from each other. Love goes from being a transcendent meeting of soulmates to something more efficient but more alienating, where two discrete bodies sate each other’s physical desires without making any lasting connection.

I find the example of Giuliana in Red Desert helpful in thinking through this issue. What bothers her is that she wants to feel bound to all the other people in her life, to love them all at once in a kind of undifferentiated, amorphous mass, but she finds herself in an ultra-modern world where every thing and every person is discrete, individualised, and identified with a specific function. The contrast between man-made colours – solid, functional – and the colours of nature – fluid, ambiguous – help to underline the nature of the problem. Speaking to the Turkish sailor about the disturbing ‘separateness’ of people, she says, ‘if you prick me, you don’t suffer’. It’s a fascinating inversion of Shylock’s appeal to our common humanity, insisting on a profound alienation between people. Giuliana’s image has a sexual undertone, and therefore associates sex (and the alienating quality of sex) with violence. This makes sense given how her husband and lover go about making love: insistently, like steamrollers, without much concern for her consent or agency.

Sandro is similar to them. He makes love to Anna at the start as a way of getting her to shut up (while she echoes his infuriating ‘Why?’ and hits him); on the island, he refers to sex to try and end the conversation; he pressures Claudia into having an affair, and later into having sex; and when he has sex with Gloria Perkins, this too is an instance of the ‘violent impulse’ Antonioni identified as a symptom of the ‘malattia dei sentimenti’. We saw Gloria earlier in the film, in a surreal scene where she was being pursued and ogled by a vast crowd of men. It’s on the verge of being a riot. In That Bowling Alley on the Tiber, Antonioni talks about a crowd of a hundred people who randomly broke out into a huge fight, for no apparent reason – an indication, he says, of that ‘secret violence’ that lies dormant in reality and sometimes erupts. The violent impulses of ‘sick Eros’ can usefully be related to this idea. In his encounter with Gloria at the end of the film, Sandro is proving to be like that crowd: unable to control his erotic impulses, or rein in their violence. Cheating on Claudia in this way is an act of violence, in a sense, as was pursuing her so soon after Anna’s disappearance. In both cases, it’s the suddenness and the violence of the impulses that disturb Claudia, as well as the way in which they violate conventional moral codes.

Sandro is aware of a problem, but doesn’t want to talk about it. Anna is most keenly aware of the problem, tries to talk about it, realises that this is impossible – as matrix suggested, and perhaps in line with Antonioni’s argument that critical self-awareness can’t solve this problem – and vanishes. The relationship she wants is not possible, not just with this specific man, but in this society; the circles she moves in are too deeply entrenched in those old ideas for her to be able to find any kind of fulfilment, so she has to escape. Into what, nobody knows. (Remember the ending of Identification of a Woman: ‘And then?’) Antonioni insisted that he was incapable of solving the problem he was looking at, so of course Anna’s destination, if she has one, remains unknowable within the frame of this film. I agree with you, Rayon Vert, that Claudia seems intent on working at this relationship, making it ‘authentic’. She too is aware of some kind of problem, like Anna she wants to talk about it, like Anna she comes to feel that this attempt is futile – and yet she doesn’t run away.

Antonioni said that these two characters ultimately feel ‘pity’ for each other, and that this may be all they have left amid the confusion of this dysfunctional relationship. Your excellent point about the multiple possible meanings of Claudia’s and Sandro’s behaviour at the end is indicative of how unresolved – like Anna’s disappearance – the story of Claudia and Sandro remains, and also of the nature of the problem: it is hard to know what another person feels, or what a gesture means. When the little boy holds his father’s hand in Bicycle Thieves, we know what that means and our emotional response is clear and intense, if complicated in some ways. But what does Claudia feel, what does Sandro feel, and what do we feel, at the end of L’avventura? The essence of this amorous disease is ignorance – we don’t understand our own feelings or each other’s, and we don’t know how to go backward or forward – so perhaps any attempt to clarify or pin down what the film is saying is doomed to failure.

It might also be helpful to look at the orgy scene in Zabriskie Point. Antonioni said he felt admiration and affection for the rebellious youth of the late-60s, challenging the ideas of previous generations. In a sense, the desert orgy is a fantasy of what Eros might look like once its disease has been cured. Mark and Daria don’t ‘fall in love’, they don’t form a spiritual connection, they don’t worry about rules or conventions; they just have sex. There’s something beautiful and idyllic about all those bodies that spontaneously materialise and start playing with and pleasuring each other, promiscuously (there’s at least one threesome going on here). But Antonioni also said that he didn’t fully understand the generation or the culture he was examining in this film, and this sense of his own distance from the subject dovetails with his fear of the modern, liberated form of Eros. The love-making here takes place in a setting associated with death, populated by nothing but dead bodies turned to sand. That sand quickly covers the young people’s naked bodies, making them seem paler, more death-like – they blend into this Death Valley. The music turns less serene and more discordant as the sequence comes to a close, and the spectacle becomes disquieting. In L’avventura, we see the problem but no solution presents itself. In Zabriskie Point, Antonioni seems to wonder whether the old attitude to love might be replaced by one which sees people solely as desiring, desire-inducing, desire-sating bodies – an extreme version of Sandro’s womanising, de-humanising attitude to the objects of his desire, divested of self-consciousness and shame, adopted by women as well as men – and he seems vaguely frightened by this prospect, unable perhaps to shake off the outdated morals he decries.

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Re: L'Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960)

#112 Post by Rayon Vert » Sun Jan 22, 2017 3:16 pm

Thank you for this very good analysis, Sloper. This sentence seems key:
Sloper wrote:The essence of this amorous disease is ignorance – we don’t understand our own feelings or each other’s, and we don’t know how to go backward or forward – so perhaps any attempt to clarify or pin down what the film is saying is doomed to failure.
I guess I'm left wondering (which is OK, I'd rather leave it as an open question!) whether Eros is an "amorous disease" because of the state of our civilization/present state of evolved consciousness (there are these constant allusions to both modernity and the ancient world throughout this film, and others - also to "primitiveness" like the scenes with that young painter, and the somewhat corresponding African "primitive" scenes in L'Eclisse), or whether it's something innate to eros.

I agree with your view that Antonioni seems be criticizing and trying to get away from, on the one hand, traditional social views of amorous relationships that are oppressive and inauthentic, and on the other the simply lustful impulse per se (or perhaps it depends on what exactly that lustful impulse is made up of).
Sloper wrote:You might think that he’s envisioning a kind of ‘free love’ future, where everyone can have promiscuous, guilt-free sex, and I do think there’s some truth in this; but it’s also more complex. The idea that love should bind people together on some spiritual level, and that they should then feel tied and obligated to each other, is certainly one of the outmoded ideas Antonioni is referring to. But he’s also fearful of the alternative, in which love takes place between individuals who are conscious of their own absolute separation from each other. Love goes from being a transcendent meeting of soulmates to something more efficient but more alienating, where two discrete bodies sate each other’s physical desires without making any lasting connection.
It definitely seems to me to be more complex than "free love", because, as you point out in the examples you give, purely carnal desire as such is criticized. (I would also point to the couple on the boat that is Raimondo and Patrizia, where he behaves with her purely on the level of a sex object and she retreats.) Or perhaps the longed-for reality is something unrestrained, free, always-changing, like desire, but that is at the same time aware and sensitive to the whole reality of the other person, and not keen on "consuming" that person as an unseen, uncommunicated-with body/commodity. But I'm trying to imagine and articulate something perhaps the film doesn't completely conceptualize itself but is searching for. Perhaps like the way Claudia and Sandro are searching (and also Vitti and Delon in L'Eclisse) for something between these states of being/relating that is hard to find or realize.

I'll definitely be watching Red Desert again with the points you brought up in mind.

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Re: L'Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960)

#113 Post by Sloper » Fri Jan 27, 2017 7:50 pm

Rayon Vert wrote:I guess I'm left wondering (which is OK, I'd rather leave it as an open question!) whether Eros is an "amorous disease" because of the state of our civilization/present state of evolved consciousness (there are these constant allusions to both modernity and the ancient world throughout this film, and others - also to "primitiveness" like the scenes with that young painter, and the somewhat corresponding African "primitive" scenes in L'Eclisse), or whether it's something innate to eros.
The desire to escape one's own culture and history - cultural and personal history - and dive into something more 'primitive', closer to nature, is a very common theme in Antonioni's films. And the escape is always problematic and disappointing. The infamous blackface dance in L'eclisse is a good example: I don't know whether Antonioni and Vitti would have thought of this as being offensive in the ways that we would, but the joke is certainly on Vittoria in that scene, and she becomes painfully aware of this. She vaguely feels like she is escaping into a kind of liberated primitivism, but the awkwardness and tension that follow (and especially her new friend's jarring comments about 'monkeys') make it clear that the real Africa is more complex than the one she imagines, and that the relation between that culture and her own is a very troubled one. David Locke's odyssey in The Passenger travels along similar lines. Antonioni himself, speaking of his love for Africa, fell prey to a common stereotype: 'I always felt the need to live in a different historical context, in a nonhistorical world, or in a historical context that is not conscious of its own historicity'. But at other times I think he seems aware of how problematic and naive these stereotypical fantasies about distant cultures are. At the end of his career, before his stroke, he was planning to make more 'violent' films, less concerned with emotions and more focused on 'facts' - as if he was constantly trying to dig deeper into more and more primal territory, stripping away the layers to get to some kind of ultimate reality. But he also knew that there either was no such reality, or it was inaccessible. When discussing the state of Eros in the modern world, and what it might mean to live in a 'healthier' society more conducive to the needs of today’s human beings, he was also very candidly hesitant and vague. So yes, as you say these are eternally open questions!

I just thought I would mention Tender is the Night, one of the two books Anna is found to have been reading before her disappearance - her father, understandably, tries to focus more on the Bible. There are several interesting parallels between the two stories. Spoilers for Fitzgerald's novel here, obviously.
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The love triangle that occupies a substantial portion of the novel is mirrored, to some extent, in L’avventura. Claudia is the Rosemary Hoyt figure, a naive middle-class woman being initiated into the ways of the upper- and upper-middle-classes, by turns amused and horrified by what she sees. There’s also something Rosemary-ish about the conflict between her friendship with Anna and her love of Sandro, and her increasing disillusionment with Sandro once their affair is underway.

Anna resembles Nicole Diver; in some ways Nicole is more like Giuliana in Red Desert, as for instance when she is suffering a schizophrenic episode during a family outing, and she deliberately avoids her own children, ‘resenting them as part of a downright world she sought to make amorphous’. But while Anna may not be suffering a nervous breakdown, she is a kind of prototype for Giuliana: note her frustration with Sandro as a present, physical reality, and her preference for loving him from a distance, when he’s less ‘downright’. In the novel, Nicole’s mental illness is rooted in childhood trauma: she was raped by her father. Antonioni doesn’t like to give explanatory backstories to his characters, but it’s interesting that L’avventura begins with Anna and her father, showing theirs to be a troubled relationship. To judge from the first scene, this has largely to do with the generational gap between them. We first see Anna leaving her father’s villa, while he complains of how new building developments are swamping his home. He’s retired from public life, and also feels redundant as a father. There’s certainly no hint that he’s abused her in any way. But there’s a tension in this scene, especially when the father complains of being left alone by his daughter, when she seems to recoil from him, and when their words and gestures seem to hint at some unspoken truth (something more than ‘that man will never marry you’). Anna’s father, like Nicole’s, seems prone to denial; perhaps one reason he refuses to notice her copy of Tender is the Night is because it would force him to think about his own contribution to her existential turmoil, her desperation to vanish from society. She hasn’t just run away from Sandro, but from her father, from Claudia, from everybody.

Sandro, like Dick Diver, has lost his professional integrity, although unlike Dick he has achieved material success in the process – it’s a different kind of decline. There’s a moment in the novel, when Dick is falling out with a colleague, and he feels a Sandro-like frustration at having to thrash things out: ‘He was seized by an overwhelming disgust for the situation. To explain, to patch - these were not the natural functions at their age - better to continue with the cracked echo of an old truth in the ears. "This is no go," he said suddenly.’ He’s also belligerent and violent like Sandro, prone to making cynical jokes to avoid engaging with reality. In the end, though, Nicole’s illness seems to drift into the margins of the novel, and Dick is the one who drops out of society and vanishes. There’s a bit near the end where he’s talking to Mary North, and complains that she and the other society people are all so dull. She retorts along the lines of, ‘But we’re all there is.’ So he runs away – and the final paragraph, though ostensibly optimistic about what he is up to now, is hauntingly vague about Dick’s ultimate fate.
I’ve also just read Cesare Pavese’s Among Women Only, upon which Antonioni based Le amiche – that film is a very free adaptation, by the way, far more melodramatic, and with a more sympathetic protagonist. In fact the novel reads remarkably like one of Antonioni’s early-60s films. It’s a stone-cold masterpiece, and I thoroughly recommend it. Anyway, I bring it up here because I was struck by a parallel between Rosetta – a very different character in Pavese than the version we find in Le amiche – and Anna in L’avventura.
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The narrator, Clelia, says of Rosetta, ‘It was true she had no motive for killing herself; certainly not because of that stupid story of her first love for Momina or for some other mess. She wanted to be alone, wanted to isolate herself from the ruckus and you can’t be alone or do anything alone in her world, unless you take yourself out of it completely. Now Momina and the others had already grabbed her up again: we had gone together to fetch her at Montalto. Thinking over that day made me feel bad.’

Although Pavese consistently, and brilliantly, underplays the emotional content of the story – Rosetta’s suicide and Clelia’s subsequent accusations of Momina are reported with shocking brevity and matter-of-factness – it’s actually much more bitter and scathing than what Antonioni made of it. The whole thing is shot through with a quiet, despairing horror at the ‘fashionable’ way of life being described. But the despair also runs deeper, extending not just to the ‘ruckus’ of modern Turin but to existence itself. Leaving Turin wouldn’t be enough: Rosetta has to leave the world altogether. Pavese himself committed suicide, by more or less the same means as Rosetta (pills), not long after the novel was published. This inevitably lends a ghoulish chill to Clelia’s relentlessly disillusioned narration, and especially to the abrupt final chapter. As with Anna, though, and as in so many of Antonioni’s endings, there’s also an exhilarating sense of the liberation that comes with annihilation. Clelia felt bad for helping to drag Rosetta back into the life she had tried to escape from. Rosetta’s fate is not nearly as sad as Clelia’s or Momina’s – like Claudia and Sandro, the living are left to grapple with the futile, fatuous chaos of life.

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Re: L'Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960)

#114 Post by Rayon Vert » Sun Jan 29, 2017 2:48 pm

Thanks for drawing out the Tender Is The Night reference. I was watching closely this time, and I noticed that novel and the Bible and thought there might be potential clues there.

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Re: 98 L'avventura

#115 Post by Magic Hate Ball » Thu Mar 22, 2018 1:29 am

I watched this again after hating it a few years ago, and totally turned around and loved it.
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Regarding Anna's disappearance, something I really enjoyed about my watch this time was how dreamlike the film felt overall, and that it wouldn't be totally out of line for Anna to have been absorbed the rock. She earlier talks about being frustrated by being apart but enjoying the fact that she is allowed to fantasize about whoever she's away from, which is preferable to facing the dull, annoying reality. Even during moments when she's purportedly having fun, she looks annoyed, like she's inviting hostility, or trying to find a challenge. She makes up the shark story to create a disturbance, and is obviously irritated by the blase attitude of her clod boyfriend. Her reaction? To disappear and become part of the concrete, unchoosing past. "When someone's right in front of you, that's all you get."

Regarding the ending, I'm not sure if it's positive or negative. Claudia making the choice to forge an emotional connection via forgiveness and comfort is moving and, weirdly, kind of thrilling. Forgiveness, obviously, is a complex concept with a lot of religious symbolism attached (which is extremely pertinent to this film and its time/place), but I think what moves me is how Antonioni takes the religious concept of Christian goodness and strips it of its capital-R Religious aspects and turns it back into something purely human. It's like a stream of empathy running between two lonely pools, and that action on its own is enough to end the film. Like an atom bomb, here comes forgiveness!
I'd deffo like to see it in the cinema now. I can't believe I hated it so fervently the first time I saw it.

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Re: L'Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960)

#116 Post by Tuthmoses » Mon Feb 04, 2019 4:48 pm

Rayon Vert wrote:
Sat Jan 21, 2017 6:11 pm
This hasn't really been discussed so far, but what do people make of the themes of this film? If I remember correctly, Antonioni spoke of "sick Eros" and so on, and I'm not sure exactly what he meant, but all through the film the focus seems to be on amorous relationships (love, desire) and what is present or absent or inauthentic in the attempt to relate in this way. I think there's more evidence of this than presumed general existentialism about loneliness and lack of meaning or ground for existence, although all those things of course can possibly be interpreted in what happens or doesn't in those attempts at human connection through eros. We're presented with a series of couples right from the beginning, and they all treat each other quite poorly. (The older gentlemen who treats his younger-looking wife with open contempt, her later giving in to adultery with the young painter without the slightest moral concern, the other couple on the boat seeming to be involved in an almost exclusively sexual relationship). The Sandro-Claudia union seems to be an attempt to find an authentic relationship again, with Claudia mostly being the one working for the authenticity, with the end perhaps being ambiguous about the possibility of success. (Which L'Eclisse seems to study again in the Vitta-Delon pairing.) But all this is diffuse to me and I would welcome reading anybody who has a keener sense of having a grasp of what is going on here.
For me, the point of the movie is how empty and dead inside people in modern society feel. It uses a typical modern relationship as a vehicle, played out over the course of 3 days (for shock and entertainment value, I suspect, as well as thematic clarity). We get Sandro, on the rebound, looking for another women, we see Sandro and Claudia's courtship in the field, the marriage proposal on top of the church, a representation of the honeymoon, and a representation of the marriage once the romance has cooled (at the fancy hotel). There we see Claudia as the wife, plotting to prove her husband's infidelity, by pretending to be sleepy so she can accuse Sandro when he comes home at a late hour. We see him going on the prowl. We see her anxiously waiting up all night for him to come home as a wife would who fears her husband is in the arms of another woman. She goes out in search of him in the morning and ultimately finds him in the arms of a brunette.

The final shot of Claudia and Sandro, looking out at the dead volcano, reminiscent of their vacation to the Aeolian Islands, with a blank, brick wall taking up half of the other side of the screen, has at least two layers of meaning, to my mind. The first, is that Sandro's infidelity with the brunette was largely due to his feeling that his relationship with Anna remained so unresolved. Did she dump him? Did she commit suicide? Did she fall off a cliff? Claudia understands this since she too still feels the pang of losing Anna and not knowing what happened to her. I think this is the reason for her comforting gesture at the end. I don't know if she forgives Sandro in that moment but it at least implies that she understands his actions.

On a deeper level, I think it reflects the couple's realization that they have lost their humanity and are suffering from the disease of "sick Eros", like you said. Claudia, who used to be so curious about life and enjoyed learning new things, has lost her ability to feel anything anymore. She stares at a tree, swaying in the wind but feels nothing. She's then shown sobbing. What she feared on the train in an earlier scene has come true. While she's sobbing, she's positioned between a church steeple and an archway, two pieces of architecture, representing male and female sex organs, IMO. When Sandro arrives, sits down on the bench and starts sobbing, he too is positioned between the same two pieces of architecture until Claudia moves up behind him, covering the archway and leaving him positioned against the steeple. Then we cut to a shot of Claudia positioned against the archway. Basically, they are the victims of their sexual desires, or rather, their addiction to sex as a means to try and feel alive. Sex, however, leaves everyone in the movie unfulfilled. Even Claudia. During the love making scene between her and Sandro, looks of anxiety in her face interrupt looks of bliss.

Ultimately, the emptiness of Italian modernity represents the inner emptiness the characters feel (or don't recognize). Modern architecture is plain and empty, modern spirituality is absurd and hollow, paying lip service to traditional religion while replacing it with new age occultism; modern marriages and relationships are empty, the landscape is barren and empty, modern art is empty, emphasized by abstract paintings and celebrity worship. Italian culture is slipping away to foreign influence, becoming a multi-lingual country etc.

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Re: 98 L'avventura

#117 Post by Pallbearer » Mon Jul 06, 2020 5:41 pm

That garment Anna loans to Claudia really tells it all, Claudia can just step into Anna's being, that's how light (empty) the characters are. They are filling roles, as one fills a sweater, the roles having outgrown in importance and reality the individuals who occupy them. Like the movie itself, it's a mystery/thriller - then it's not, it's a romance - then it's not, it's a metaphysical play. It's neither "this" nor that - precisely as its characters. And it's tied to the modern era specifically; remember when Corrodi's wife says the islands were volcanoes? That's a reference to when life was different, people where eruptive, had life, vitality etc. Now, it's buried under the lava of the sped up carousel of modern life. And, like you mentioned, sex (eros) as a substitute for deeper, more meaningful communication. Another symptom of the modern condition.

I go into (a lot) more detail in my article "L'Avventura at Sixty" https://medium.com/@significult/lavvent ... 6c837b5d69 where I trace the film's reception from rejection to redemption. In the article, I relate the merits of the movie (both thematic strains and stylistic traits such as the extended use of "cinematic dead time") as I see them.

That article was the companion to a film analysis video I made as part of a series where I rank and explore the 250 greatest movies of all time. You can see my video analysis of "L'Avventura" here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgKSkQFNgVI.)

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Re: 98 L'avventura

#118 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Feb 25, 2021 2:17 am

This has got to be one of the most fascinating and pleasurable (perhaps ironic choice of words for the moods in the film) threads to read on this forum, so much so that I hardly have anything to add to the aspects about this film that affect me most- which, likely self-evident from my posts here, encapsulate my favorite topic: the futility of man to comprehend the enigmatic depths of one's emotions as they orbit the simultaneous stimulation of a social and philosophical world. Like many, I didn't like this film as a whole on a first watch about a decade ago (though I always loved the long opening act), and then after about a year or so I couldn't shake it from my mind, saw it again, and was bowled over. Part of what I've come to appreciate is that the structure seems to be unevenly lopsided in fading interest by design, with the enthralling first hour a deliberate unveiling of the accumulating mass of banality and desolate spirit permeating the consciousness of these characters, and the subsequent hour and a half detailing that malaise, as Claudia now becomes uncomfortably comfortable living the life that Anna did and experiencing the same disease of ennui firsthand.

The most devastating and unsettling feeling I get in this second part, that hasn't really been touched on too much here, is the tragedy of how replaceable we are, of how one's death doesn't leave the impact that we wish ours did on others, and even if this haunts Claudia it's possibly more rooted in a sense of egotistical guilt and lack of catharsis from mystery than processing grief through selfless mourning per se. These symptoms of devaluing existential importance come not only in Sandro moving on so easily and repeating the same love declarations to Claudia, but the friends who crack jokes about Anna's disappearance, or even when searching default to self-obsessive relationship problems. I thought about my experiences with romantic relationships, of course, and how I've been the receiver and perpetrator of this expendability in the story of my life- how much it hurts, how good it feels for that to be possible to recover and start anew with similar or greater feelings, and how ultimately depressing that level of impermanence is when it involves the most precious of assets: one's entire complex life reduced to a buried memory. More than those romances though I thought of my experiences with young friends dying, and one memory in particular where I was driving with friends about two years ago and one of us mentioned being sad about our friend's recent untimely death. The car was silent for about five seconds before that moment ended and someone cracked a joke and moved on to being silly. Now, we can't just be sitting and stewing in the past or pathos all the time, and it's hard to blame young people in recovery in these situations where it’s common for friends to die regularly, but does that reflect a heightened social desensitization that this film explores- a defensive avoidance of exploring nebulous significance to cope with the overwhelming presence of these reminders of its absence in our lives? There's a strength there, and yet there's also a devastating chronicle that exploits our fleeting meaning, for the ease at which he was forgotten in that instant deeply unnerved me. I personally attempted to counter this in a very active way, placing a picture of this friend on my dresser so that I see him and am reminded of him every day, and have a tattoo on my arm to seal his memory permanently into my life - but is this a desperate attempt to clutch onto the elusivity of significance, or perhaps as a selfish hope that someone would take similar steps to not forget me?

This eerily mirrors the ambiguity of the ending of the film. Do Claudia and Sandro partly exhibit unease because they cannot grasp their significance, or others' significance, and even have evidence from this deficit that they too are expendable? The pity felt at the end seems to be just as much for themselves as for the other, and perhaps the extending of an arm/crying for the other person is a way to pity the self in a socially acceptable way, reverting to the morals Antonioni damns as cyclical stalemates. I don't know, but I do know that as the film progresses I become more and more tired, sad, bored, and frustrated, and I've come to believe that those are exactly the feelings that I'm supposed to have. Antonioni has transported me into the world of these characters who are also exhausted, confused, and melancholically complacent, and that keeps me paradoxically excited and invested as I'm withering away helplessly in harmony with these people mining for substance in impenetrable spaces. Unlike what some others have said, I don't think these people are vapid, but their inability to pierce their psychology with diagnostic consistency is a symptom of a greater ideological-moral systemic blockage of skillsets, a snowballing weight stacked against their sobriety to access themselves. The greatest tragedy is that we clearly matter to ourselves, and yet we cannot authenticate why (even if there is a 'why'), while we matter so little in the context of all else, and this floods any chance we had at exorcising the fatty haze of psychosocial defenses and phenomenological enigmas (to borrow RV's apt reading) coating the self-actualized emotional identity we covet.

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