Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
Written by Michelangelo Antonioni, Elio Bartolini, and Tonio Guerra
Cino del Duca/Produzione Cinematografiche Europee/Societe Cinematographique Lyre
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
The adventure in this hauntingly beautiful film is a young woman’s journey of self-discovery.
Anna (Lea Massari) is young, beautiful and rich. She is also bored, dissatisfied, and conflicted about her engagement to Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti). Sandro works as some kind of building consultant, having abandoned actual architecture. The two have meaningless sex in lieu of communicating. It’s hard to communicate with Sandro, who is seemingly a very simple sort of guy.
Anna’s friend Claudia (Monica Vitti) will accompany the couple on a yacht trip. Along for the ride are two other couples, both of whom also have deeply conflicted relationships. Claudia is the witness to all this emptiness and despair. She will be the only authentic human being we will meet in the course of the film.
The party visits a deserted rocky island where they continue to play out their psychodramas. Suddenly, Anna has disappeared Everyone looks for her with varying degrees of intensity. Claudia is the most frantic. But Anna is nowhere to be found.
Sandro comes on to Claudia before the yacht has even departed the island. She flees to continue the search on the mainland. He follows her. Then they start searching together. Claudia eventually reciprocates his attentions but loving Sandro will not be easy.
This was my third viewing of L’Avventura. The first time through I was just puzzled. After a couple more tries at Antonioni’s films, I concluded that he made boring films about boredom. The second time something clicked in me and I found the film fascinating and meaningful. On this viewing, I was somewhere in between my two reactions. The film seemed to drag on and on, yet every image was captivating and moving. I love the ending when two characters seem able to grieve their losses.
I don’t know how fair it is to let a commentary influence one’s opinion about a film. The one on the Criterion version is fantastic and explains so much. It turns out that you have to pay attention to just about every detail in every frame to get the most out of this. Nothing is there by accident. When I watch the movie through this film historian’s eyes, it turns into a masterpiece.