Why do people do the things they do? Oftentimes, we struggle finding an answer to the question because people can be unpredictable. In Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1960 Italian film L’avventura, we see how the disappearance of Anna sets in motion the unpredictable actions of her lover Sandro and her best friend Claudia. Initially, Anna seems like a main character that we will follow but after the romance buds between Sandro and Claudia, she was gradually forgotten. We may have expected a thriller, but that is not what we get. When the film seems to shift into a love story, we are misled once more. We ask: What is going on?
In L’avventura, there is no cause-and-effect driven narrative — events appear without explanation. We wonder, “Why did Anna disappear?” or “Why did Sandro suddenly kiss Claudia?” We can provide theories, but we will never get our answers. Because of this, most people are left confused and disinterested in finishing a long, seemingly incomplete film. The difficulty in understanding L’avventura lies in Antonioni, who chooses to withhold information. He refuses to give a back story or definite characterizations that films usually provide. Not only are we uncertain of what the characters are thinking or feeling at a given time, but they, themselves, are not too sure. For instance, Sandro simply says, “Why would I do that?” when he ruined an art piece. Admittedly, we can understand these instances where the character does not know the motivation behind his or her actions and suddenly, they become more real. To add to that, the haunting landscapes contributes to the distance and alienation that we feel from the characters. By doing so, Antonioni presents how the audience can still experience tension and fascination without the conventions of storytelling. He does not tell us how you should feel about the scenes; rather, he allows you to reflect on your own.
Aside from the unique take on cinema, L’avventura compels the audience to follow the film, despite the long, slow running time, through the emphasis on visual compositions. The ending shot with Sandro beside the blank wall and Claudia near the volcano was beautiful. At the end of the film, there is no resolution to the storyline. We are left with one of the biggest questions: “What happened to Anna?” Questions of plot are often answered in conventional Hollywood films, especially for events that drove the storyline. However, Antonioni leaves us with mysteries and instead, poses a challenge for us to think about the personalities of the characters.
Similar to a typical adventure, Antonioni’s L’avventura exhausts the audience with the long, slow running time. Yet, you leave the cinema with renewed vigor after witnessing one of the most mysterious and visually striking films of all time. It may not have been the adventure we were expecting, but it sure was a thrilling and unforgettable one. L’avventura deserves to be a classic because of how it paved the way for European cinema to become a breeding ground for interesting, artistic, and thought-provoking films.