– Spring/Summer 2001

Michelangelo Antonioni: Three Landscapes

Michael Tarantino

I. L'Avventura: An Abstract Solitude

A filmmaker is a man like any other; and yet his life is not the same. Seeing
is for us a necessity. For a painter too the problem is one of seeing; but
while for the painter it is a matter of uncovering a static reality, or at most
a rhythm that can be held in a single image, for a director the problem is
to catch a reality which is never static, is always moving toward or away
from a moment of crystallisation, and to present this movement, this arriving
and moving on, as a new perception.

What do I remember most about Michelangelo Antonioni's L'Avventura? A woman disappears. Her friends look for her. There are lots of shots of waves crashing against the desolate island where this takes place. She is never found.

The film caused a scandal when it was first screened, primarily because of the anguished cries of 'what happened to the narrative?' For many, it seemed as if Antonioni had gone off the deep end, taken many of his followers with him. More than anything else, the film was accused of being boring. Forty years later, we know better.

The director's emphasis on 'seeing' in the text cited above is an obvious, yet integral, aspect of the ways in which Antonioni constructs his films so that the viewer may recognise the difference between stasis and movement. This is at the heart of his distinction between cinema and painting. One, despite how fluid it may appear, is irrevocably static. The other, even when it is perceived as slow and deliberate, is inexorably

  1. Michelangelo Antonioni, 'The Event and the Image', The Architecture of Vision, New York: Marsilio Publishers, 1996, p.51. This article was originally translated in Sight & Sound, 33, Winter 1963-64

  2. Pierre Leprohon, Michelangelo Antonioni, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1963

  3. Michelangelo Antonioni, Blow-Up, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1971, p.19

  4. P. Leprohon, op. cit., p.174. The quote is from an article by Jonas Mekas on L'Eclisse. Originally published in The Village Voice, 13 December 1962