Viva L’Avventura

L’Avventura (d. Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960)

Prior to watching the film, I remember being warned in class that L’Avventura was going to be one of the more so-called ‘pretentious’ European movies. And admittedly, when I first started the film, I was instantly intimidated by its lengthy runtime. However, two hours later, I was pretty much surprised that I had just sat through a nearly two and a half hour film without breaking a sweat and it felt like it just flew past by. This is because L’Avventura, more than anything, is almost like a dream watching it. It is black and white, yet the sceneries and environment feel distinctly colorful, there is a central mystery to the plot, and yet the film effortlessly focuses on things outside of the core mystery without the mystery ever feeling truly diminished.

While the plot initially seems to focus on the mysterious (and unexplained) disappearance of Anna, it soon transcends into being a plot about a couple that was unsatisfied with their relationship finding an out. Anna found her ‘out’ by disappearing, and Sandro found his ‘out’ through the form of Claudia, who he ‘falls in love’ with. The reason why ‘falls in love’ is written with a quotation is because the film actually is less of a love story and more of a showcase of dissatisfied people desperately clinging to things in an attempt to find satisfaction. Almost everyone in the film is rich but has nothing substantial to make themselves truly happy. And that is the silent tragedy of the film.

While Sandro may appear to be in love with Anna, the first chance he gets, he ends up going for her best friend Claudia. While Claudia may appear to be fully dedicated to finding Anna, the first chance she gets when she thinks Sandro has found her, she runs away in a panic, conflicted over her dedication to her best friend and her attraction to Sandro. When Sandro appears to want to marry Claudia, she refuses, but then accidentally rings a bell and has a grand time dancing, with Sandro amused at her and the two appearing to be in love. The Sandro-Claudia relationship seems to consist of nothing but mixed messages, and that really sums up the film – it is not only about a mystery unsolved, it is also about a love story that never truly was.

The perfect personification of this central theme of the film is actually its final scene. After everything they’ve been through, Claudia finally confronts her feelings by admitting that she’s afraid should Anna return because it would mean losing Sandro. But despite this supposed mutual attraction, Sandro still decides to check out other women and Claudia even catches him with Gloria Perkins. In shock and sadness, Claudia runs away to cry, and an equally tearful Sandro follows her. In this final scene, both of these characters are crying, both for what may be different reasons. Claudia is crying because she is hurt, and yet she may also be crying upon realizing that this relationship is something that is clearly unfeasible, something that is only useful for the moment and nothing long-term. Sandro is crying not only because he got caught, but because he may have finally realized that no matter what he does, he can never truly be committed to a proper relationship. The closing shot of the film is Anna placing her hand on top of Sandro’s head, both still in tears, as the sight of a beautiful mountain can be seen in the background. This, I believe, is what the movie is showing. There are beautiful sights, there are wonderful auditory noises throughout, but the central core of it, its heart, similar to its main characters, is empty. It is nothing. It never was about love and was always purely about what was convenient and enjoyable short-term.

All-in-all, L’Avventura is a wonderful film. While personally it’s not a film that I would be too keen on seeing again (mainly because of its heavy ending), as it stands it is a beautifully-shot and shockingly realistic view on relationships and the complications they bring.

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