In retrospect, L’Avventura is clear from the beginning about its preoccupation with empty spaces. An empty space is where the heart of the film should be – specifically, the empty space left behind by its faux protagonist Anna after roughly 30 minutes. Upon first viewing, the rest of the film after her disappearance seems to work like a rush of cells hurrying up to fill and close a fresh wound. The end result, subsequently, evokes the despondency of scarring, with the bulk of the film following a long-winded process of healing, or lack of it.
For most of the film, we’re saddled with the two people who each held Anna as one of, if not the most significant part of their lives. Their “loss” of Anna is what becomes the shape of the narrative, instead of the actual search for her as it would in a mainstream film. However, L’avventura doesn’t seem to want to be identified as a Mystery film – almost all its plot points that seem to lead to an answer wind up becoming a dead end. While the film does dwell on the search for Anna for the bulk of its runtime, the film realistically delivers what the immediate situation around a person’s disappearance would look like – life doesn’t happen plot point to plot point until the missing party is found, it continues at its usual pace, sometimes dwelling for almost too long on captivating visuals, empty spaces, and smaller conflicts that arise. The film is unfiltered in this regard, presenting reality in a blunt fashion for all the mystery the film keeps teasing is under the surface.
The feminine mystique can be named as the scapegoat for all the film’s harsh turns – everyone’s fixation on one woman’s disappearance does jumpstart the film’s narrative, after all. The women in the film behave as if hiding a plot point pertinent to the central mystery of Anna’s disappearance. What makes Claudia distinct from the rest of the women in the cast is that her perspective is how most of the film unfolds, and her desires to find Anna and begin a relationship with Sandro drive the plot from her point of view. This makes Claudia the most vulnerable woman in the film, and the plot only proceeds to take advantage of how exposed she’s become. The treatment of women as either objects to seize or mysterious forces to understand is present throughout the film, and almost seems to make viewers conclude: “If this was the world Anna was dealing with, then no wonder she disappeared”.
L’avventura’s atmospheric use of accentuated settings and lingering takes on characters’ emotional experiences are what mark it as a classic of European Cinema, and its choice to tell a story mostly liberated from dramatic techniques has become influential in waves of independent cinema up until the 21st century. While L’Avventura and its mysticism may require further reflection to appreciate, its radical but simple style of execution is something audiences see and appreciate, whether they know it or not.