Monday, July 19, 2010
A 1960 Italian film directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, L’Avventura at first sighting might seem to come across as a movie that one does not find very impressive.
The story is simple, that of a girl who disappears, and a search that yields nothing. The process of the search, however, results in another love story. The characters do not engage in anything very eventful at any given point of time. The purpose by which the film sets out to develop as, is lost when the character who has disappeared, and the search to find her yields no results. I wondered if we are too used to being fed with a resolution to every conflict in a film. Now what is it about this film that has made it reach iconic status?
The movie poses a challenge to its viewers by not giving an answer to the absence of the apparent central character, who was expected to be Anna. Every developing scene or conversation is linked to finding Anna and in our minds that is what the film needs to resolve in the end. The romance that develops between Claudia and Sandro is not only slightly shocking, but also secondary to the search to find Anna. However, Antonioni cleverly pushes us off balance by making it the film’s story itself. So does that make the film a love story?
We are not sure whether Sandro is really in love with Claudia. He is unable to say that he loves her with ease when she demands it. At a point of humor, he even says he doesn’t love her. That, I found as a subtle clue to his confused feeling. Does Claudia love him? This is highly doubtful too because she seemed to have simply gotten drawn to Sandro’s advances and was vulnerable to his strong persistence.
Sandro’s character is typical of the male ego. He is not only unaffected by Anna’s disappearance, but is also arrogant in his failure of becoming an architect. He intentionally spills ink over a young architect’s drawing. He doesn’t show interest in volunteering to seek Anna when they wanted to look for her at the other island. Yet, in the end, Sandro breaks down. That is his breaking point. Perhaps he too has a soft side to him, where he feels guilty of his actions. And also, maybe his way of dealing with Anna’s loss was by distracting himself with other thoughts. He immediately fancies Claudia, and claims his love for her, but somewhere I think he wanted to get close to her because she was Anna’s best friend and so mostly might be like her.
Claudia, I believe is the central character in the film, where the whole plot revolves around her. While she remains an observer sometimes, she also is the participant at other times. She, in a sense is the catalyst of all the unfolding events. For instance, it’s Claudia’s resistance to Sandro initially that makes him come onto her more forcefully. He follows her in the train to plead to her. It is she who is visibly affected by Anna’s disappearance prompting Sandro to continue the search for her. Claudia’s constant looking out of the window could be an indicator to her restlessness, her hope to find something. Yet she’s not sure of what she’s looking for. Perhaps for an answer to the complicated situation she was in? The window is quite metaphoric. It accounts for a mise-en-scene.
It is evident that the characters are lonely, and most scenes have a certain emptiness that is overwhelming. When the search for Anna is on, there is usually one character in a frame at a time, who are mostly looking or moving away from the camera. The conversations are disjointed and the vast expanse of land and rocks alienates the characters from each other and from the viewer.
I found the sound of the seashore important in many respects. During the search for Anna at the island, the waves hitting the rocks sounded harsh and foreboding. Towards the end of the film, we hear the sound of gentle waves of the sea as background, when Claudia and Sandro are at the open terrace together in a moment of uncertainty. The expanse of the sea conjures up in our mind, which evokes a sense of calm, yet haunting uneasiness.
The final scene is very crucial to the analysis of the film. The weight of her hand spoke what was to be communicated. Also, her hesitation to touch him was a moment of conflict, followed by a sure and steady touch of understanding. But how do we know that that touch meant so? She was not only consoling him, but herself, for everything that had happened till then, and in seeing Sandro break down, may have realized that the only way they could get through the pain was by forgiving and being there for each other.
I also found the last scene important for another reason. The fact that Sandro was sitting lumped down on the bench crying and Claudia standing next to him stamps a strong message. That of the power of the woman. The film not only carried women as the prime characters, with Anna, Claudia, Gloria, Patricia and Guilia who seemed to have men in their desirable arena, but also ended with Claudia having the say in the final act of redemption by Sandro.
It is to be said that Antonioni did experiment with the formula of a traditional plot and narrative structure, to create a new venture in cinematic expectations.