L’Eclisse (1962)

All relationships in nature have an arc – a beginning, middle, and end. The length of time in said union may vary, and the stories entangling and contributing to each component make them unique. The finality of a relationship may expose a wide discrepancy of emotions based on its journey, including sadness, joy, and indifference. The subsequent avenues of exploration taken after a breakup can therefore be endless. Unlike La Notte, “L’Eclisse”, the final film of Antonioni’s trilogy of love and loss, begins with the end of a relationship and explores the course taken by the lead actress in its aftermath.

Vittoria (Monica Vitti) is a young literary translator who used her knowledge to aid her boyfriend, Riccardo (Francisco Rabal), in his work. The silent tension between them at the beginning of the film indicates impending dissolution, and that happens in the form of Vittoria ending her relationship with him due to lack of happiness. While he continues to occasionally pursue her, Vittoria dabbles in spending time with equally emotionally confused female friends. She also attempts to reconnect with her distant mother (Lilla Brignone), who is a frequent flyer of the Rome Stock Exchange. It is there that she meets Piero (Alain Delon), a young stockbroker obsessed with increasing his monetary wealth. Vittoria and Piero begin to spend time with one another, battling reservations in this budding courtship and surrounding threats, including loss, fear, greed, and anger. However, they are fuelled by the promise of a fresh start and hope.

A solar eclipse is often viewed as an extremely rare phenomenon in outer space, whereby the Moon’s view is temporarily blocked. Contrarily, eclipses occur on a daily basis in terms of human interactions. Certain internal and external events may prevent us from experiencing life at its supreme. One such event is an affair and its impact on a current relationship, both explored in L’Avventura and La Notte. While many are absorbed in the details of ensuring a properly functioning bond with their partner, another eclipse that occurs is the loss of individuality and personal identity. I feel that this is the true common thread linking this beautifully expressed trilogy. As well, the stunning composition and editing of the revered end scene highlights the memories of physical spaces and lost promises of former optimism. “L’Eclisse” is therefore a fitting title to the final chapter.

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La Notte (1961)

Relationships are constantly in a fluid state, and follow no prescribed formula. They are strengthened and weakened by monumental life events, small gestures, as well as geographical and emotional distance among a multitude of other variables. In turn, our self-worth and personal value is shaped by our sense of belonging. Marriage is the ultimate creation of partnership and potential enmeshment between two individuals, and its dissolution can create empowerment, disdain, or a void in the lives involved. “La Notte” (1961), the middle film in Michelangelo Antonioni’s trilogy of loneliness and emotional detachment, examines the decomposition of a marriage quite astutely.

Giovanni (Marcello Mastroianni) and Lidia Pontano (Jeanne Moreau) are an upper middle class Italian couple, with the former being a successful writer and the latter being a housewife originating from wealth. The palliative illness of their dear friend and writer Tommaso (Bernhard Wicki) distresses Lidia greatly, detaching herself physically from her famous husband for a brief period of time to pay homage to areas of Milan they knew when they were in love, optimistic, and naive. The film later tracks the course of their empty marriage throughout a party hosted by a highly materialistic businessman, Mr. Gherardini (Vincenzo Corbella). The value of fidelity, honesty, connection, purpose, and sense of identity are questioned by the main as well as some supporting cast. As in L’Avventura (1960), it becomes evident that monetary wealth facades the essence of individuality.

The party referred to in the previous paragraph took place during “the night”. Life-altering events or revelations can evolve slowly or occur instantaneously during a short period of time, such as over the course of an evening. The blackness and finality of night itself can signify bleakness, reflection, and absolution. It is thus no coincidence that many characters’ awareness of self and interpretation of the present in the film, especially that of Lidia, occurs over this time frame. Cognizance of the limitations of self-indulgence and vanity can also lead to comprehension of our shortcomings, sensitizing humans to the reality of the twists and turns that occur daily in our lives. Although not fully explored in this challenging and rewarding film, I feel that this strength can create resiliency, allowing us to tackle and cope with an assembly of puzzles and problems.

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L’Avventura (1960)

Careful character development and still, quiet cinematography are hallmarks of Michelangelo Antonioni’s work. Current directors, such as Steve McQueen, masterfully adopted this technique to allow viewers to be with the characters, delving into their worlds, and truly experiencing their joys and inner turmoil.  These emotions among many others are involved in human existence. However, true happiness is not quite as prevalent through Antonioni’s exploration of human vanity and emptiness in his renowned trilogy of films exploring this topic through the bourgeoisie lifestyle. “L’Avventura” is the first of the three films, the others being “La Notte” (1961) and “L’eclisse” (1962), probing into the reality of relationship progression, hurt, loss, vapidity, and guilt.

Anna (Lea Massari) and Claudia (Monica Vitti, a staple actress in this trilogy) are two beautiful best friends who go on a boating vacation off the glorious Italian coast with their wealthy companions. Anna is reunited with Sandro (Gabriel Ferzetti), her boyfriend who is often away on business trips. It becomes evident from their interactions that there is a high level of distance in their relationship, with Anna needing attention so that Sandro can ultimately prove his love. During the boating trip, Anna becomes a missing person – quite a terrifying ordeal. While search parties ensue, the dissolution and strengthening of various relationships within and closely surrounding that circle of friends occur. Concern for Anna’s wellbeing dissipates among some yet unsettles others. Claudia and Sandro’s bond further develops, with the looming idea of Anna threatening to squander and appropriately create guilt in said relationship.

The word “adventure” is usually associated with heroic tales of self-discovery, positively changing the course of one’s life. In this film’s context, this word drips with cynicism. The escapade undergone by characters in the film is filled with feelings of isolation, sadness, boredom, betrayal, as well as other aforementioned emotive nouns in their self-discovery. The wealthy background of each character has only masqueraded their true loneliness, and the road to fulfillment may damage others’ self-perceptions. This journey is unfortunately fuelled by a necessity to create detachment, as is evident with Claudia and Sandro’s coupling. These emotions are normal, raw human experiences, and many move day to day in life’s “adventure” feeling partial and disengaged for various reasons. This film reminds us of this reality, but also of the importance of creating meaningful, honest relationships and being true to one’s self. Authenticity is key in feeling whole, which is one factor responsible for increasing resiliency against life’s strains and hardships.

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