Saturday, February 9, 2013


L’Avventura (1960) - dir. Michelangelo Antonioni
So it has come to this. After years of staring at this film on my shelf I finally was brave enough to enter the world that is Antonioni’s L’Avventura. I had long put this film off as for me this came to represent the highest echelon of arthouse cinema. It’s controversial history and divisive interpretations adding more to my curiosity. So I took the plunge.
The film concerns a wealthy trio of friends. Claudia, her close friend Anne and Anne’s partner Sandro. After embarking on a yachting vacation around the islands of Amalfi the group finds that Anne has disappeared. Did she run away? Murder? Suicide? We can never know, for what starts as tumultuous search for her by Claudia and Sandro slowly descends into the pair beginning a passionate affair. Anne becomes but a ghost that haunts over the characters as carnal pleasure takes precedent.
Were this a conventional film, my revealing that Anne is never found would be an aberration to the plot. But this film is not so simple.
L’Avventura is for me the proverbial foil to Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. Italian, characters searching for something lost within themselves, the films diverge at the lifestyles they display. For Fellini, the glitz and glamour of celebrity from an average man looking in, for Antonioni a world of the decadent rich. However it is the most surreal existence, and an impermeable sense of ennui permeates throughout the film. Wherein acting upon pleasure only serves to distract one from the utter meaningless of their being. Characters openly flirt with strangers, the parties seem sparse and lifeless, for in this world they are all essentially empty. As Roger Ebert described it, a melancholy moral desert.

I delve further. For years popular sentiment heralds how money buys you happiness, that society pursues wealth in the interest of affording happiness. However this film serves as a rejection of this. Here we see those who have it all, money, beauty and social power. However it only serves to further embolden the uselessness of their existence, in the end submitting themselves to basic pleasures to find meaning. 
I felt as though I were in a fugue state for much of the film. For at the end of the day, nothing really happens, at all. The signature plot motivator, being Anne’s disappearance, simple recedes into the gorgeous black and white cinematography. This initial reaction was shared by many during its initial run, with some jokingly referring to “Antoniennui”. I still have my reservations having now watched it, but I cannot deny its visual grandeur, and the simply radiant performance by star Monica Vitti. Don’t put this film off for as many years I did. 8.5/10


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