Coming into this elective and having watched two amazing films so far, my expectations for L’Avventura by Michelangelo Antonioni was set high. I was expecting something thrilling; something that is beyond my expectations of cinema. Indeed, my knowledge of 60s European films were limited to the oddness, yet captivating screenplay of A Woman is a Woman by Jean-Luc Godard and the eerie themes of Persona by Ingmar Bergman. Yet, despite my high expectations of being surprised with another kind of film, L’Avventura seems to both fail and exceed such expectations.
Honestly speaking, L’Avventura is the most confusing film I have ever experienced. Not only did it confuse me with its extraneous plot points, it also made me feel generally confused about my feelings towards the film and the activity of being made to watch the film for class. What was I supposed to feel about a movie that I have a hard time understanding to begin with? It may sound harsh, but such feelings led me to believe that this movie is testing me in some way. However, one thing I learned in this class is that one’s personal expectations never seem to meet what the films we’re shown present to us. There is always something surprising, or at least something worth being at awe at.
L’Avventura fulfills such expectation in a way one would not expect it to. When we think of something that surprises us, we think of extravagant things; things that deviate from what is normal, where such deviation creates an exciting feeling for the weird and the unknown. However, L’Avventura is neither extravagant nor exciting. A lot of scenes were prolonged stills of the characters expressing their emotions. In fact, the progression of the film is so slow that when you set the film at twice its regular speed, it would still look like a normally shot film. (This is proven by the fact that my friends and I tried this while watching the film, and to our amusement, the film was still comprehensible despite its unusual speed).
The film then is made surprising by its unusual way of storytelling. It may not have been as exciting as the other films we have watched so far, but it still exceeded my expectation regarding European cinema in the 60s. What makes it great for me is its ability to evoke strong emotions to its audience. It’s almost as if the mournful emotions the characters portray permeate through the screen towards its audience. We mourn for the characters’ inability to communicate their intentions just as the characters mourn for their state, made problematic by their choices. The frustration is strong for both me and the characters as they struggle to solve the real dilemma.
Despite L’Avventura’s inability to bring excitement to its audience, I believe it did bring something significant to us. It surprised us in a way that no known and popular films would. The emphasis on the slow progression allowed us to immerse ourselves with the emotions portrayed by the characters, especially in the slowest moments of the film. This, I believe is what made L’Avventura the most surprising film I have watched for this class so far. It brought me something boring, yet different and meaningful than what was initially expected. Maybe the title itself shows us that there’s an adventure one can seek when watching L’Avventura––and that is seeing its beauty amidst our preconceived expectations.