L’Avventura Review

Love on the waves and streets of Italy seems far too common a conception to make much headway, but L’Avventura and director Michelangelo Antonioni make their mark through the desires of two distant lovers realising their worth, and hating the outcome. When the one connection between them disappears, they are left to their own devices. They are free to reconcile their apparent feelings for one another. What Antonioni does, though, is make it so that their affair is just that. A rebellion against a system that had no interest in them in the first place. Fraying emotions and bubbling tensions are caused not through love, but through the boredom of their holiday.

As these characters croon around art galleries and mould life on the Isola Tibernia, the parallels drawn between them are clear and fastidious. One wanders as the others confirm their love for one another, and it all engages with the cool perseverance drawn out by Antonioni. Anna (Lea Massari) may have reservations about the time she spends with the two, but her timidity and lack of curiosity brings out those tense moments that Antonioni strives for. Her predilection is that she does not dare to break the mirage of her dream-like lifestyle. Her frustrations mount not just at the friends she drags along, but at herself also. Diving into the ocean, chased by sharks, she doesn’t particularly care at times. She does fear the outcome, just does not care for its long-term impact. She lingers in the doorway of a room that could be linked to her lover and friend, but she closes it slightly and wanders off.

Where the fate of its characters depends so naturally and poetically on the disappearance of someone that links them together, L’Avventura and its course of romantic interludes would be impossible without the character preventing them from staying together. As they ride around the volcanic island they holiday at, there is an understanding between them of such a horrid truth. Had they never met, they would never have lost their mutual acquaintance, but never have found each other. Antonioni is wise to not make this such a simple trade-off, but his characters and leading lovers understand the impact of this disappearance, and the cataclysmic effect it has on the two is rewarding and intriguing.

All of this deeply moved character studying is set to luscious backdrops and intensely well-defined streets and panic-struck characters. Their desperation to make things work between them is the real tragedy found within L’Avventura, and Antonioni does well to focus in on it at crucial points of poignancy. Erratic, exasperated choices lead to moments of mania and guilt. Anna was still the friend of this newly-founded couple, and it is through her that they are together. Much of the guilt found between Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti) and Claudia (Monica Vitti) is not through their discomfort in the presence of one another, but the looming ghost of their pasts. She has not passed on or removed herself from their lives with force and hate, but has simply disappeared. The impact this has on the should-be happy couple is the realisation that, if it were not for this disappearance, the sparks of romance would never fly. Antonioni throws a wet rag on those sparks, and his audience are given a view into watching the embers smoke up and cause problems for this leading trio.

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