L’Avventura (1960) is probably the most exhausting movie that I have watched in this class. Dredging through the entire 143 minutes of the movie’s running time, with characters fleeting aimlessly from scene to scene and a plot that didn’t seem to be going anywhere, the film was definitely a difficult one to watch. But departing from the initial feelings of boredom and exhaustion, I realize now that the film captured a fundamental human emotion: emptiness.
In terms of the movie’s plot, Anna’s disappearance was a point of frustration. It would seem to be the central question in the movie, but as the movie progressed, it got less and less significant, eventually remaining unresolved. The characters’ indifference towards her disappearance was unsettling, save for Claudia who seemed genuine in her attempt to look for her. Looking at what the film tried to focus on, I feel like the loss of Anna does not serve as a major point in the film’s narrative; instead, it serves as a showcase of her acquaintances’ lack of depth.
This emptiness is evident primarily in the characters. I didn’t find any of them likable because their intentions weren’t clear, and it seemed that they acted based solely on their whims. Sandro, for instance, instead of focusing on looking for Anna, is seen to flirt and sleep around with the women he encountered. Faced with major issues (someone mysteriously vanishing, a budding romance), they confront them superficially, and then proceed to be swept away with the circumstances they find themselves in. They succumb to earthly pleasures through their lavish lifestyle, seemingly detached from the reality of the situation they find themselves in. Claudia’s character is an exception at times when she is shown sincerely looking for Anna, or for feeling some sort of guilt over her relationship with Anna’s lover, Sandro.
But most of the time, they appear to be floating beings that use their money to escape any form of responsibility or moral obligation. This reveals the emptiness within them, how their riches do not merit a filling sense of happiness. We see them capable of giving and receiving love, capable of sustaining a substantial form of human connection, but they grow bored and move on to other ventures, only to find themselves bored again. Even the island where they escape to, the “adventure” leads to this mundane, rocky landscape that isn’t really what comes to mind when you think of a travel destination.
Antonioni’s work was controversial upon its release due to the audience’s reaction to a film filled with ennui, which points us to the direction of how film is created and consumed conventionally. But having scratched at the surface of what he tried to achieve with L’Avventura, we witness a beautiful and authentic display of a prevalent human experience. It may appear inaccessible to some due to the bourgeoisie nature of the people it portrays, but it does capture the universality of escaping from the realities of life and being filled with dread. As one of the three 1960’s film shown in the class, the movie does set the tone for the European cinema being stylistically determined at the time, as seen in its hole-filled narrative, as well as the detached characters it presents. Perhaps, it achieved to impart the sense of lethargy its characters had to the audience.