Saturday, November 3, 2012

L'Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni)


Before anything else, let me first, for the record, state that I love Michelangelo Antonioni's films. Be it the psychological enigma that is "Blowup", the mysterious identity thriller that is "The Passenger" or the marital woe-laden "La Notte", he has always been a hit to me. Without exaggeration, I consider him as one of the greatest auteurs of all time, and I'm not even halfway through his sterling filmography yet. So with that in mind, I went on to watch "L'Avventura", the first film in his informal 'Incommunicability Trilogy', with an expectation of being blown away once more. But alas, it has not happened. 
Hailed as a cinematic work that has revolutionized the way films are structured and executed, "L'Avventura" is quite a disappointment for me as far as Michelangelo Antonioni and his films are concerned. But then again, maybe that is the film's point. After all, the film is a prolonged observation of emotional detachment, which is the same thing that I have felt while watching the film. 
Though I understand where the characters are coming from, the film has still alienated me to high heavens. If perhaps that is Mr. Antonioni's ultimate intent, then I am impressed once more. If it's not, then maybe I deserve to be sentenced to an eternal cinematic damnation for not liking a film that everyone seems to love. But kidding aside, I think that "L'Avventura" is really that kind of film that is quite difficult to like but is easy to admire.
Antonioni, being the existentialist filmmaker that he is, is more concerned not with the film's literal mystery (the sudden disappearance of one of the characters) but with the emotional enigma that pervades throughout. The primary premise is simple enough: After the shocking disappearance of her friend Anna (Lea Massari) during a yacht trip, Claudia (Monica Vitt) suddenly finds herself trying to resist the urge of falling in love with Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti), the man that's no less than Anna's current lover. But still, fell she did. 
All throughout the film, Michelangelo Antonioni finely questions the validity of the romance between Claudia and Sandro and invites us to witness the subtle awkwardness of it all. We see them kiss and hug in hotel rooms and on discreet street corners. We can sense that, somehow, they look fine together, but what about Anna? 
As the film progresses, Antonioni lays down the question of whether or not we should take Anna's disappearance literally or symbolically. Whatever our personal answers regarding it may be, it is quite evident that Antonioni has used Anna's sudden absence as a device to further explore the emotional uncertainties of the kind of love that mushrooms from such situation rather than as a shallow means to compel and excite. 
Despite of its slow pacing, bloated running time and alienating characters, "L'Avventura" is still a seminal film that is worthy of great veneration mainly because of how it has changed the way how cinema can communicate such things as love, existence and the feeling of being lost. I may not have liked the film that much compared to Michelangelo Antonioni's other works, but I sure do respect it for what it has contributed to the artistic progression of cinema as a whole. By creating this film, Antonioni has proven that cinema has no limitations, that it is not necessarily all about the plot and the payoff, and that cinema can exist outside the four corners of a tightly-structured narrative; the shackles are no more.


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