L'AVVENTURA (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960, Italy)
“This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” –Hamlet.
The empty characters are false unto themselves, unable to make any real connection to each other; they are each an island surrounded by violent surf where sleek voracious sharks forever prowl. Director Michelangelo Antonioni employs a classic Hitchcock MacGuffin; what at first seems a mystery about the disappearance of Anna becomes a languidly paced seething volcano of internal friction between Claudia and Sandro, Anna’s boyfriend. The enigma is never solved and only a few peripheral clues are revealed while Antonioni focuses his attention upon her two selfish companions. Claudia is the sympathetic character, distraught at her friend’s disappearance and begins to follow leads and search for Anna. Sandro slowly corrupts the fragile Claudia and, I think this is key to understanding her guilt, she allows it to happen. She becomes an echo, like a voice reverberating inside a deserted church, its doors forever closed to her redemption. Sandro is superficial and callous, a cold-blooded predator always in motion, searching for his next prey even while devouring his current victim. Claudia resists and turns him away, bearing the guilt of her friend’s possible death, confused that she enjoys Sandro’s attention and objectification. Antonioni utilizes long takes, allowing space to ebb and flow between the character’s movements like the crashing sea. The characters diminish in importance, vanishing down long corridors or pinned like dead butterflies through deep focus static shots, framed within frames of curtains, doorways, and windows. His brilliant use of sound creates an environment of spiritual malignancy; the dry crackle of leaves, lonely clacking footsteps, and the ocean’s ubiquitous rumble. Claudia has one final chance to break this emotional bondage to Sandro but her trembling hand touches the void. The final shot is magnificent: a crumbling brick wall, Claudia and Sandro tiny and insignificant, dominates the frame while a volcano lurks ominously in the background, a metaphorical sleeping giant that shall one day awaken and destroy their sordid affair. (A)