dir. Michelangelo Antonioni

This is the best film I have ever seen.

I don’t even know where to begin. This movie blew me away. Other mind-blowing aesthetic experiences that are on par with watching this film: Brothers Karamazov, Milestones, or Kind of Blue.There are some films you love because the characters, themes or the story just resonate with you in a personal way. That’s NOT what I mean when I say this film blew me away. The film blew me away because of its wild ambition and utter success in fulfilling that ambition. It’s the best art film I’ve seen. (Well, it is a tie between 2001: A Space Odyssey.) Like 2001 this film is beautifully shot; it speaks to the viewer through the camera–versus the action or the story. If you like “photographic” films, this is definitely a must. That’s one of the reasons I call it an art film.

The other reason is that the film is not about characters or a story. This film is about one major theme (at least one) and films like that are usually pretentious. Not this one. Art films also can be difficult to watch because of the slow pace or abstraction of the film. Imo, Antonioni does a great job of pulling you in and making you want to see what’s going to happen next. So while the film doesn’t have a strong narrative per se, there is a story line that Antonioni is able to direct in a way that creates suspense and anticipation.

I’ve only seen this film once, and I’m reluctant to talk about it because I know there are so many more treasures in this film, and a part of me wants to discorver them for myself before I engage in a conversation about this film.

1 Response to “L’Avventura”

  1. Reid

    I just watched this film the other day. Before I go into my interpretation of the film, I want to comment on my initial reaction to the film.

    Comments on my initial reaction to the film

    (minor spoilers)

    First of all, is this still the greatest film I’ve ever seen? I’m not sure. There was less of an impact on the second viewing, but taking the film down a peg because of that is a bit unfair. (I’ll go into why I think that later.) While I cannot say that this is definitely the greatest film I’ve ever seen, I can say that it is one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen. (There are only two that are in the same class–2001: A Space Odyssey and The New World).

    Second, I think Antonioni is great at drawing in viewers and making them want to see what’s going to happen next. (He displays this ability in his other films as well.) This is particularly noteworthy given that his films are art films more than conventional Hollywood films. In other words, Antonioni employs more narrative based film techniques to pull the audience along within an art film. In this way, he reminds of modern filmmakers like MIcheal Haneke and Ki-duk Kim.

    Having said that, the film didn’t pull me in as much and that took away from the impact that the film had, I think. However, I attribute that mostly to my knowing the ending. The movie works like a mystery or suspense film and one can’t condemn these type of movies if they have less of an impact on multiple viewings. I feel this way towards Psycho. I think it’s a great film, but it didn’t have that much of an impact because I knew what was going to happen.

    One last thing about my initial response to the film. I failed to mention in the post above that one of the reasons my experience was so enjoyable was that I was on the same wavelength of the film. Perhaps half way through the film, I had come up with an interpretation of the film. When the ending fit with that interpretation, I was thrilled. I think that’s worth noting because sometimes you can overestimate a film just because you figured it out; so solving the film could factor in your assessment of the overall quality of the film.

    At the end of the post above, I said that I wasn’t ready to comment on the film. Well, I don’t know if I’m ready now, but I’m going to give my take on the film anyway.

    What is this film about? My Interpretation of the film

    (Read after viewing the film)

    If I could summarize my initial interpretation of the film, I would say this: Men are dogs, but women still yearn for them. This situation deserves are pity. If I were more charitable, I would say that men and women yearn for each other, but differences between them and other forces make a true loving connection next to impossible. This deserves are compassion and pity.

    In my second viewing, I still feel that, although there are some twists to the original interpretation, as well as questions for another possible interpretation. First, let me get to evidence for my initial interpretation. Antonioni shows time and again the carnal attraction that men have towards women:

    • Raimondo blatantly expressing his desire for Patrizia on the boat. Raimondo rather crudely expresses his desire for Patrizia and gropes her breast–in front of Claudia (who chuckles at this, sort of expressing her naivete). Patrizia reacts indifferently and in general treats Raimondo with contempt. My take is that here is a couple that has been married for a while, and perhaps, Patrizia has learned to accept that Raimondo won’t meet her needs; that they will not connect.
    • The scene between the young painter and Giulia. In addition to the young man wanting the Guilia, Giulia also wants him. However, she has been scorned and treated with contempt by her husband, so her attempt to sleep with the young man is her attempt at revenge. Another noteworthy part of the scene is that the painter, paints nude women in a primitive form like some early Picasso and Gaugin. To me, this hinted at the primitive nature of our sexual desires
    • The pharmacist talking about seeing Claudia and his wife being angry with this. This scene reinforces the idea lustful nature of man for a beautiful woman, and the wife’s frustration with this situation.
    • The men that swarm and lewdly oogle Gloria Perkins and Claudia; These scenes are almost satirical they’re so over-the-top, but perhaps Antonioni is using humor to underscore the point
    • Finally, Sandro quick attraction to Claudia and then his equally quick attraction to Gloria Perkins. Just after a day of his finacee, Anna, being missing and perhaps dead, Sandro makes a pass at Claudia, his finacee’s best friend. Later in the film after telling Claudia he loves her, he goes after Gloria Perkins. What is also crucial to note is that Sandro seems genuinely remorseful and upset by the situation. It also seems like he can’t help it, the sexual drive within him is so powerful. Antonioni also keeps the suspense up to the very end of the movie to show us how Claudia will react to this (and indicate Antonioni’s position). Claudia subtley and gently touches Sandro’s head, almost as if her were a child. She does not embrace and declare her love for him. It’s a small gesture that indicates that Sandro deserves pity, making Antonioni a humanist.

    In my second viewing, there was also another layer to this interpretation. I felt Antonioni was also making the additional comment that modern civilization has failed in humanizing and controling these carnal desires. There’s a good scene that illustrates this. On the island while searching for Anna, some authorities find an ancient vase (I’m assuming Greek or Roman). Raimondo looks at the vase, but as soon as Claudia passes by him, he turns to look at her, drops the vase, shattering it. Antonioni also has a lot of shots of ancient buildings, and he doesn’t shoot them in a flattering way. Finally, there’s also a scene where Sandro spills some ink on a sketch of a building. The scene could be taken as a Sandro’s contempt for civilization because of it’s failure to fully civilize people. On the other hand, there are other things that happen in the film that suggest another interpretation. More on that later.

    While I think there’s evidence for my initial interpretation, I noticed another possible interpretation. Corruption and compromise of one’s self and beliefs seems to be prominent. We can see this most strongly in Sandro’s character. Sandro is an architect who compromises his early dreams for money; instead of building things, he estimates what construction costs and makes a lot of money as a result. The scene mentioned above where he purposely ruins the drawing of building probably indicates Sandro’s disappointment and dissatisfaction. Following that scene, he tries to force himself on Claudia and she stops him and says she doesn’t know him or something to that effect.

    There are other scenes that seem to address this. In the opening scene, we see the tension between Anna and her diplomat father. He talks about the lies he’s told, and he hints at being unfaithful (at least my take). Basically, he’s a corrupt person. Anna seems contemptuous of him; she decides to marry a man the father does not approve of and leave her father alone on the weekend, even though he indicates he wants her to stay.

    In this interpretation, Anna could be seen as someone who realizes that Sandro or, perhaps his lifestyle is corrupt, so she breaks from this. In my initial interpretation, I would say Anna realizes knows Sandro’s carnality and that he is incapable of loving her, so she escapes from this.

    While I’m on this point, let me digress for a moment. Anna and Claudia seem to be an opposite ends of a journey or “adventure”–Claudia at the beginning and Anna at the end. From the very beginning Anna is disturbed. Something is bothering, and we don’t know what it is exactly–a device Antonioni successfully uses to draw us in. I feel that Anna is aware of the way Sandro and perhaps all men are (her father was unfaithful to her mother as well). At the same time she’s drawn to Sandro, as she tells him that the thought of leaving him really crushes her. Yet, she tells him, that she needs more time to be alone. Perhaps, she can’t articulate everything I’m saying, but subconsciously she knows these things and finds the strength to run away from Sandro; perhaps the only way she can avoid the trouble she senses down the road.

    Claudia, on the other hand, has a much more innocent attitude. We see this as she is amused by Raimondo groping after Claudia, and intially she reacts the same way when the young painter and Giulia jump on each other. Once she lets herself fall for Sandro, she behaves like a young girl in love. There’s a scene where she playfully sings and dances seductively about him; she also tells him to tell her he loves her. Only at the end of the film, does she realize what Anna has realized at the beginning, crreating a circular effect.

    Back to the corruption interpretation. How does Claudia fit in? I’m not really sure. She could be naive and only realizes at the end how corrupt things are. I’m not really sure, and I’m not willing to go dig deeper right now.

    These are my two takes on the film right now, and I wish I was more willing to work at this more to resolve this, but I’m too lazy. I believe there are other interpretations of the film. I haven’t read any other commentary yet, but I’ve heard a few comments about how this film is about boredom and alienation of the upper classes. Maybe I’ll start to read some other commentary.

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