Okay. I’ve a few thoughts I’d like to share about this film, if you’ll indulge me. First of all I should say that I liked it, but I’m not really sure why. This is a step forward for me though because Antonioni has become something of a nemesis of mine.
The first Antonioni film I watched was Blow Up – some of you may remember my Blow Up…What the hell? thread from a few weeks ago. I dutifully listened to the impassioned remarks people made and then plunged into L’Avventura, which also left me a bit frustrated, but it was a much closer call that time…I was bobbing along happy as a clam for the first hour of L’Avventura secure in the knowledge that there was a genuine, honest-to-god mystery that was going to be addressed and resolved one way or another…hmm. Again I looked at some of the comments left here and all the praise heaped on the film and it really got me wondering. “Maybe it’s me”, I thought, “There’s something I’m not getting here. Why do all these people shower these films with accolades and praise them to the heavens? These films go nowhere. There’s usually nothing happening, and any time there is some interesting incident it either gets sidelined or forgotten about in favour of, well, nothing really”. And yet. Hmm… They do stay with you. I still think about Blow Up now and again and wonder did I really not like it? I think maybe I didn’t care too much for it all in all, but I didn’t hate it by any means. It just frustrated me because of my expectations of how a film should be concluded. Did I really dislike L’Avventura? Absolutely not – the camerawork and beautiful black and white photography were a joy to behold. I was intrigued by the premise in the first half and eager to find out how things were going to pan out. D’oh! Antonioni 2 – Rumplesink 0. Both films frustrated me in that they set up a situation and I was programmed to expect some sort of conventional resolution, which of course never came.
Having been stung twice, I approached L’Eclisse armed with the knowledge that whatever may happen – if anything does – I shouldn’t expect any neat resolution, and should instead just soak up the fantastic cinematography and masterful direction – both of which I believe L’Eclisse and L’Avventura have in spades (Blow Up not so much, but I think that’s because I much prefer the black and white, and wasn’t keen on David Hemmings’ character or Hemmings himself as an actor). So I settled back and enjoyed the artfulness of it, the strange beauty of Monica Vitti and the caged energy of Alain Delon and I enjoyed it. Nothing much happened, and I’ve never really got into the swing of this interpretative way of looking at a film to uncover a director’s oblique statements or intentions through the characters’ actions or behaviour (I still don’t understand why the film’s called Eclipse for example), but I did enjoy it, when all’s said and done.
Now, I’m probably going to try again with La Notte next, if I can find it, so I’m looking for a heads up this time. Maybe if I read what you guys think Antonioni’s really saying with the film and why you think it’s great before I watch it I’ll be able to fully enjoy it. Here’s hoping :o)
It always seemed to be like Antonioni’s editor slept on the job. The long, infuriating shots on empty streets and walls in L’Avventura all but confirm my suspicions. I believe it’s best to approach his films readily prepared to condone long takes and not expect closure. That’s his trademark I guess.
Rumplesink, I believe you’ll enjoy La Notte. It’s not too long and is very engaging.
Eraldo da Roma has been the editor of Rome Open City and of the first official Sergio Leone film,amongst a lot of others,arguably one of the underrated editing masters…so the point of the “sleeping editor” is out of the question for me..
i haven’t seen Eclisse yet Rumplesink,but i’ve read many a reviews about it…Avventura however and Notte do have similar themes,the main difference is not the longitude nor the absence of motion….
it’s that in Notte characters converse more to each other…whereas in Avventura (and i may as well assume in Eclisse) silence is the key figurine of the universal conception of love (?),perhaps modernization of culture and the loneliness of it…
maybe i get a kick out of all kinds of films be it a talkative one or a totally avant-garde piece of 20 minutes of nothingness,even so…unless the pictures and the photographic images don’t move you,i’m not really sure why should you or someone else criticize this model of art as “frustrating” because of the absence of “speech”,in whatever sense you had or left you afterwards..
“There’s usually nothing happening…”
Nothingness is Something :)
The “Sleeping Editor” thing was a joke. Where’s your sense of humor Dimitris? :)
Regarding the title: Antonioni has stated in interviews that he went to film an actual eclipse in Florence and began to wonder whether he could work on a theme of the “eclipse of the feelings.” Then he cut the eclipse footage from the film because it would have exaggerated the title and made the theme too literal and obvious.
As night falls in the final sequence, the effect of an eclipse can be seen in the gradual darkening of the EUR district. And the fact that the couple doesn’t show up suggests the metaphorical “eclipse of the feelings” the director was going for.
Notice that the film begins on a bright white oblong object, which turns out to the the sleeve of a man’s white shirt, and ends on a bright white oblong object, a streetlight overlooking the incomplete building project. This is often how one has to “read” Antonioni’s films, by paying careful attention to these sorts of visual motifs and trying to make meaning from their accumulation. Another example in ECLIPSE is the recurring view of that building under construction, which represents both a literal site and a figurative comment on human relationships being incomplete during the Atomic Age (a situation only mentioned in a newspaper headline seen late in the movie).
So, it may take somewhat more than observing the subtle acting of the performers; one may also have to pay very close attention to the visual and aural cues “to uncover a director’s oblique statements or intentions.” Antonioni conveys narrative, character, and thematic information on different “wires” than most directors (although he’s influenced many), who rely primarily on plot, action, and dialogue. (as one example, there’s that big, abstract painting in the first scene, which seems to represent the emotions of the breaking-up couple, the feelings they can’t seem to express to each other directly.)
There are NUMEROUS books and articles on ECLIPSE and other Antonioni films that can help anyone interested in exploring his artistic and thematic methods. (You may still come away puzzled or not liking his cinema, but it should help viewers who want to understand what he was trying to do.)
I’ll probably have more to say, but let’s give others a chance to post.
Did you listen to the commentary on the Criterion Collection disc of L’eclisse? I think that, according to the commentator, that the film switched characters from one person to another, instead of following one main character that you would see in a fair number of American films. I don’t know if Antonioni is making a traditional statement or message that other filmmakers might do. He is sort of observing and maybe allowing you to come in with your own conclusions. I think I have may have heard on the commentary for L’avventura that people have begun to distance themselves from one another and he illustrates this with his trademark of silence in his films. The last scene in L’eclisse, according to the commentator was chopped out for the American release because the distributor didn’t think it fit the rest of the movie, when in fact it was just another eclipse into a different way of observing things, like when we are placed in scenes with other characters, compared with the previous scenes with different characters. The commentator mentions during the last scene that the Japanese liked it because of it’s Zen like view on things or something along those lines. La notte is great. Great jazz music. Thought provoking dialogue. It sort of reminds me of the Ice Storm. I believe La Notte was Ingmar Bergman’s favorite Antonioni film.
Pick up the book Italian Cinema: From Neorealism to the Present by Peter Bondanella. Regarding L’Avventura, there isn’t supposed to be closure. It’s an existential film.
“L’eclisse” is my favorite Antonioni.
Antonioni is all about what you see. Watching all the Antonioni films with the commentary on after first watching the film by itself was a big help for me in learning how to appreciate Antonioni’s work. Reading about his work helped some, but to see the film with someone knowledgeable about Antonioni and the film explain so much of what was going on, in all respects, frame by frame helped me immensely. Otherwise, I would be thinking, “what is this?” Doing that also gave me insight into a lot of the older auteur type Italian filmmakers with their operatic roots. I’m being very general, but I had to learn how to appreciate Antonioni and a lot of other foreign filmmakers’ work.
If you can find The Passenger, it comes with commentary by Jack Nicholson who played the lead. It is also an English language film, and may be easier to take in. (It also has probably the most famous long take ever.)
“(It also has probably the most famous long take ever.)”
you mean as a finale,i can name you a whole lot of long takes from either obscure or well-known art-house films..
“It is also an English language film, and may be easier to take in”
so,for the ones who don’t have English as their mother-tongue,will it still be easier?that was kind of a one-sided statement..
Antonioni isn’t about plot or mystery, at least not in any conventional way. He’s about atmosphere, landscapes, and feelings beyond words. His films are about what it feels like to exist in the modern world, he created a new way of seeing. L’Elisse is his greatest film, imo. Red Desert is fantastic too.
Antonioni stated that his films weren’t about mystery so much as an attempt to create works which are mysteries in themselves. This isnt’ the same as being confounding purely for the sake of. His intentions were always poetic. As Dr Frank said above, one really has to be attentive to Antonioni visually. Everything you need to uderstand him is there.
I think the viewer has to take some responsibility for expecting L’Avventura to be a procedural. It wasn’t his intent.
His characters are trying to connect. In L’Eclsse Delon is having an easier time connecting to money. Plenty happens in L’Eclisse. The stock market collapse is an action sequence that Eisenstein would have been proud of.
Nothing gets resolved but that’s a different matter.
Have you tried the audio commentary of L’avventura on the Criterion disc? I listened to it a long time ago but I remember it to be fairly enlightening. Also, if I am not mistaken, L’avventura created quite a bit of stir at Cannes when it was intially shown there so you are not alone…
Anyway, if you are looking for ‘plot fulfillment’, you have started with the wrong films. Some of his earlier films like The Lady Without Camelias or Il grido could be better introductions but Red Desert is my favorite Antonioni…
“L’Avventura” was famously booed at Cannes. The scandal this created sparked interest in the film — and the rest is history. It’s one of the few cases of “bad reviews” working in someone’s favor.
“L’Avventura” was famously booed at Cannes"
Les Abysses was also booed at Cannes in 1963,another famous case of negtive reviews vs eternal glory….but how come people talk more about Avventura and not Les Abysses even if the latter has achieved a cult status?it’s easy,woe to the fuckers of distribution and the critics who choose which directors they want to establish…
and i’m saying that in spite of my love for Antonioni’s work!!!
I’d actually like to get an Antonioni box-set (although I don’t think one exists). Because they are so alien to me and coming from such a different place than most other films I really do think I will revisit them more than most other films. I would also very much like (need?) to hear the audio commentaries on these films. Thanks for the help, people. I’ll try to keep at it until I crack it :o)
One of my favorites movie going experiences was watching L’Eclisse in film school. You could hear a pin drop.
“I believe La Notte was Ingmar Bergman’s favorite Antonioni film.”
Hal, I think it may have been “Blow up,” but don’t take that too far because Bergman was NOT a fan of Antonioni’s work. He actually thought he was booooooorrrrrrrriiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnngggggggggggggg. I think Bergman said something along the lines that Antonioni didn’t know how to make cinema.
I personally love the end of L’eclisse, it’s so empty. It’s the anticipation that he creates that I find so intriguing. Francisco, I bet a pin drop would have sounded like an explosion by the film’s close.
Not a big fan of Antonioni, but I respect him.
I ordered both L’Avventura and L’Eclisse yesterday (both Criterion) from Amazon.com. Thought I’d let everyone know as they were only $16.49 each. Get them quick while they still have them.
“Because they are so alien to me and coming from such a different place than most other films I really do think I will revisit them more than most other films.”
Face it, Rumps, you’re hooked.
It seems like commonly people either love or hate Antonioni, which to me is simple. To me his films, at least of the ones I have seen (8 films), he seems to deal so deeply with the characters’ emotions, perhaps to a fault for some viewers.
For me, I feel like his characters are frequently searching in one way or another, the sort of feeling you can either identify with or not. His films are full of emotion, whether or not some isolated character is sobbing on camera or helplessly wandering.
Sam Lin, I just saw a youtube video on Bergman where he talks about Antonioni and he mentions in the video that the two films he really like of his are Blow Up and La Notte. I thought that Bergman was a big admirer of Antonioni’s. That video I saw on youtube I believe is in one of the bonus documentaries on the Ingmar Bergman Collection box set I have a copy of. So, you’re saying that he didn’t admire Antonioni too much? I don’t really know myself. Thanks for letting me know.
I only just saw Antonioni’s Eclipse and thought maybe I should comment here.
It was an experience unlike any other. This was my first Antonioni film and I must say, I was pleasantly surprised. Antonioni seems to be driven by theme and composition rather than plot or dialogue. In fact, there is very little of plot or dialogue in Eclipse, the focus instead is on the themes of the abstraction of feelings and emotions, the material world versus the intensely personal one and the gradual way in which material reality swallows up anything personal. In part, this theme is what is echoed so wonderfully through the last seven minutes. As Vittoria and Piero plan to meet the crossroads of the Eur, we are instead treated to multiple shots (not a long take as someone above me suggested) of ordinary things happening, only with an ominous undertone. There is silence, and there is emptiness, like in an eclipse, we feel something missing. Vittoria and Piero are missing and their love, like the water flowing out the barrel where Vittoria’s stick of wood and Piero’s matchbox float, is leaving them. This loss of love is referred to in another clever oblique way, that of the man who turns off the sprinkler that is spraying water everywhere. I understood this as a symbolic turning off of their feelings for each other.
Eclipse needs to be understood as a film that doesn’t give in to conventions. Besides the flimsy plot and the spare dialogue, Antonioni switches to an almost documentarian eye when shooting the Rome Stock Exchange and again, when shooting the scenes out of the plane’s window. But again, Antonioni doesn’t stick to these either. His shots are fragmented and he seems to delight in synecdoches. The openings shots to the film establish nothing. There is no establishing shot, no diagetic zero, simply a shot of an elbow that we only understand to be an elbow when the camera pans to the right. We are treated to various shots from different sides of the apartment but never given a feel of what the apartment exactly is like. There are numerous shots later in the film where Antonioni uses a high angle, the head or the shoulders outlined against the sky or trees or foliage. These shots have an unsettling effect. They serve to isolate the characters from their comfortable backgrounds because in a way, Eclipse is a film about contrasts and discomfort. The earliest hint of this comes in the credits where the popular upbeat swing song fades out in the middle to an atonal, disruptive sound/music. Antonioni is challenging the viewers even at this earliest moment, before the film has even begun, that this film is a film about discomfort.
In Antonioni’s shots, we find a thematic link that brings together form and content. Many simply dismiss Antonioni and Eclipse as simply a ‘stylistic’ film and to those who love the film, as being victims of the so-called aesthetic of ‘style over substance.’ I disagree wholeheartedly. In fact, style is substance and vice versa. Eclipse doesn’t seem to be lacking in either. Style is evident in the strange angles, the long takes, the abrupt cutting, the use of ellipses, synecdoches, the 180 degree rule transgressions, the digressive takes and shots, etc etc. I could argue for substance based simply on these stylistic choices but for those inclined otherwise, substances comes from the junction of style and content. The film is about Vittoria’s alienation from the world, her gradual separation from personal intimacies and contacts. It is her giving in to the sublime, the contemplative. Often, we find Vittoria intensely studying some movement, whether it is the rustling of foliage or the movement of a stick of wood in a barrel. Her way of seeing the world is in clear aesthetic terms. Piero who comes from an ordered numbered world (that of accounting), doesn’t understand Vittoria. He doesn’t see what Vittoria sees. And what Vittoria sees is alluded to in the opening where she reaches into an empty picture frame and moves objects through them, arranging them in a style suitable to her. When Vittoria’s alienation reaches its zenith, we are at the end of the film, where Vittoria herself is absent. In a way, she has disappeared and what has taken her, and Piero’s place, are the ordinary banal objects that were always there: the trees, the crossroads, the buses, the ordinary people milling around, the buildings. In effect, Vittoria has disappeared. Her alienation from the material world is complete.
When I interviewed Antonioni, I asked him about his signature endings. He quoted playwright Anton Chekhov: “Give me new endings and I will reinvent literature!” I guess he wanted to reinvent cinema.
If you want a conclusive Antonioni ending, check out THE MYSTERY OF OBERWALD, a film he shot on video for Italian TV (RAI), based on a Jean Cocteau play. I won’t give it away but there’s definitely a resolution, even a classical one.
Frank – what kinds of questions did you ask?
Pranaya Rana: wonderfully written description.
I describe Antonioni’s later work (to much derision here) as visual. Visual thinking is the integration or disintegration of structure.
Robert W. Peabody: The full interview is available in
Michelangelo Antonioni: Interviews
ed. by Bert Cardullo (U. of Mississippi Press)
Unfortunately, you can only preview a little of it on-line.
I’d email you a copy but it dates from 1982, before I even owned a word processor, so it’s not in electronic form.
I was interested in the type of question e.g. technical stuff, themes, specific framing etc
How detailed were the q’s?
Robert W P.: All of the above. Antonioni spent 10 minutes explaining how he shot the penultimate shot of THE PASSENGER, even though I told him I knew all about it. He even diagrammed it on a sheet of paper. (When I asked him for the paper, so that I could print it with the interview, he ripped it up and threw it in an ashcan.)
Many interesting things came out that have never been printed in other interviews:
1. he made his political stance more specific than he had in other interviews (I had to pull teeth!)
2. on aesthetics, he claimed that he “cut the most beautiful images from his films” so that they wouldn’t stand out from the others.
3. that he directed all of the subtle and seemingly ad-libbed gestures made by Jack Nicholson in THE PASSENGER.
4. that he considers his films to be “experiments” but that he is committed to story: “a man, a woman, drama.”
5. that, at the time (1982), Robert Altman was his favorite American director. He screened THE LONG GOODBYE at one of the closing events.