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.
I do not own the above image.