The 2014 Italian film festival continues, this time with director Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1960 classic Italian art film L’avventura (The Adventure).
When wealthy but disillusioned Anna (played by Lea Massari) goes missing while on a yacht trip in the Mediterranean, her lover Sandro (played by Gabriele Ferzetti) and best friend Claudia (played by Monica Vitti in her feature film debut) try to find her. In the process, they find strong feelings for each other, too.
Shot in black and white and employing a minimalist style, the film was groundbreaking in the use of cinematography and visual imagery to convey human emotion. The Criterion Collection DVD (which I rented from Netflix) has a wonderful commentary track provided by media arts scholar Gene Youngblood. He explains this about the visuals in L’avventura:
“Antonioni’s great achievement was to put the burden of narration almost entirely on the image itself, that is, on the characters’ actions and on the visual surface of their environment. He uses natural or manmade settings to evoke his characters’ state of mind, their emotions, their life circumstances. We learn more about them by watching what they do than by hearing what they say. We follow the story more by reading images than we do by listening to dialogue. The settings are not symbolic or metaphoric—they are extensions, manifestations, of the characters’ psyches. Physical landscape and mental landscape become one.”
The film’s imagery shows Antonioni’s view of the impossibility of human relationships; that people are like islands, and that modern life has created empty people with empty lives. While the character of Claudia appears to have some moments of clarity as she takes the journey to self knowledge, the other sad sacks in the film are like the desolate island where Anna disappears in the first place. And with Sandro, the oft-used statement that “men are pigs” is an understatement in his case.
If you’re up for a cerebral, visually stunning, slow moving, but thought provoking cinema adventure yourself, give L’avventura a looksie.