SteelCity99 - wrote on 04/28/18
Italian auteur Michelangelo Antonioni established himself as a poet for the first time since he released the first audacious part of his unofficial "Incommunicability Trilogy", which also included the films La Notte (1961) and L'Eclisse (1962). Whereas the subsequent two parts focused on unsuccessful love relationships because of the incapability of owning a respectful empathy and its impact on a surrounding society of snobbishness and delicacies, L'Avventura is a tale of thought-provoking exploration. Its hidden layers of complexity and psychological discussion made of this gorgeous masterpiece a commonly referenced landmark film of sensuous eroticism. When it was premiered at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival, it was received with extreme ridicule. Its hype and controversy grew to such extent that a new generation of film critics praised the film and granted it a much better reputation. Sure, after Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita (1960), the lavishness of the modern European high class was morally challenged and significantly degraded. Along Antonioni's fully developed essay about the human condition of the aimless bourgeoisie walking towards senselessness, it was clear that an era of charming and delightful musicals was over, and cinema had to adopt a more mature and serious face. Arguably, it is the best film of the director and a legend in Italian filmmaking.
A group of rich Italian friends head to a Mediterranean yachting trip, arriving to an isolated volcanic island. However, the mind of Anna is invaded with questionings about the authenticity of the love in his relationship with Sandro, his lover. When Anna reaches a point of confusion and desperation, she asks for some time alone and decides to explore the island alone. Magically, she disappears. The group of friends exhaustively looks for her with no success while, simultaneously, her lover Sandro and her best friend Claudia develop an attraction for each other. After finally returning to land, their relationship begins to intensify and the search for her missing friend Anna suddenly loses all of its importance once they become lovers. Director Michelangelo Antonioni was nominated for a Golden Palm, losing the award to Federico Fellini for the film La Dolce Vita (1960), but won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Giovanni Fusco won a Silver Ribbon for Best Score at the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists of 1961.
There are almost no films that match the genius of Antonioni's L'Avventura. Unlike several other directors that establish their landmark styles, graphically displaying their particular ideologies and visions of an earthly sinful world, Antonioni opens, shows, develops and closes. He depicts a series of events, offers a conclusion and does not question the characters. This is a very generous invitation for an avid audience, but it is also a challenging decision. One as a spectator is about to omnisciently judge, from a purely third-person perspective, the respective motivations behind the actions and measures taken by the characters. From this perspective, however, the actions seem to be ultimately pointless and unexplainable. Through a wonderful scope and a Victorian cinematography in all of its visual glory and awe, Antonioni constructs strictly human personages that go from the extremists to the conformists.
The cast is astoundingly accurate. Gabriele Ferzetti is Sandro, the unfaithfully impulsive male character whose true superficial and opportunist nature is revealed with the sudden disappearance of Anna, her former lover. Claudia is the spiritually empty female of unstoppable passion but troubled existence, brilliantly performed by the gorgeous actress Monica Vitti. Anna is the irrevocably confused character that possesses an unfathomable inner horror when her priorities and feelings are challenged, being finally taken to physical nothingness, ridiculously disappearing from the face of the earth. Primarily, this is the trio that ensues most of the analytical nature of L'Avventura, excluding the sensual and materialistic Giulia, a woman that will latterly become a constantly interruptive nuisance. Whereas most dramas involving an extramarital affair involve secret meetings and climatic deceptions and tears, Antonioni's cleverness goes beyond such basic concept. Ironically, that happens in real life, but he decides to literally make the third vertex of the love triangle to vanish. It is the most extreme version of a typical real life issue.
Why does the director decide to exterminate Anna? Factually, Antonioni uses Anna as a symbolic object of internal doom and dissatisfaction. As members of an upper class, materialism is utterly destroyed and the nature of man is returned to its primordial roots: those ineffable impulsive acts derived from emotional motivations. Therefore, we as an audience should not focus on what happened to Anna. It is never described. The true protagonist is Claudia, the troubled woman whose reason ends up living under the government of emotions. So what if Anna was swallowed by the sea or eaten by a shark? Those events are not supposed to erase morality friendship and to start an affair. All of these aspects lead to one conclusion: the film is a complex exploration and a journey of self-discovery. Their lives should make the characters joyous and celebrative; nevertheless, they become soulless and blind human beings. The hope of achieving physical and emotional fulfillment slowly starts to dim into oblivion, and the concept of redemption is more distanced from their psychologies as the affair begins to intensify. Are physical attraction and the resulting passion capable of surpassing the top priorities of life? The true horror of the film relies on one possibility, regardless of its low probability: Anna may still be alive.
Antonioni invented the story and developed a spectacular screenplay full of dialogues that consecutively reveal hidden sentiments and strong epiphanies. Along with passionate kisses, sexual symbolisms and breathtaking sighs, the musical score plays an extraordinary role, especially during the last minutes, just to close the film with a horrifying conclusion. No more words need to be spoken after the film has run 140 minutes, revealing the last shot. Isn't the heart the least rational artifact of the human organism? L'Avventura is an unforgettable journey into the deepness of the mind and the deciphering of several meanings of love. What is defined by love? What does love define? This film develops a forbidden love, La Notte (1961) suggests man's struggle for maintaining a successful relationship, and L'Eclisse (1962) destroys all sings of hope, revealing shots of isolation and introducing us to a nuclear era. If considered as a whole trilogy, Antonioni's take on the flaws of mankind is atrocious, and it seemingly suggests that European financial ambitions and an unnecessary political overpowerment is the most effective road to internal perdition, which is substantially worse than the external one.