22 March 2005 | Poison-River
Shallow Characters In A Very Deep Film
There's something strange going on in this film.
The first time I watched it, it seemed to wash over me without affecting me in anyway. Later on(and I've read this in other people's comments here as well) I found images and dialogue from the movie creeping into my subconscious; entire dreams would take place upon the island where Anna goes missing(often in monochrome), or I'd start to compare real life events to those that occur during the film. Did Antonioni plant subliminal messages within the movie? Probably not. It's more likely the masterful pace he employs here, coupled with the busy, deep cinematography is the cause of this. Notice how the backgrounds NEVER go out of focus, no matter how much is going on within the frame. Check out the scene about an hour and ten minutes in, where Sandro and the old man are talking in the middle of an extremely busy street; nothing blurs or goes out of focus, even when a tram comes in and out of the shot, nothing loses it's perspective, and as the scene ends and they walk deep into the shot we can see way past them and far, far into the distance.
This seems to be why the film has such a deep affect on the subconscious. The characters are deliberately shallow and are placed at the very foreground of every shot, yet the backgrounds are rich tableaux bustling with life. In the scenes on the island where Anna disappears, we see the main characters always in shot, yet in the background there is a feeling that something strange within nature itself is going on. The darkening of the clouds, the sudden mist upon the water, the rocks falling to the sea, even the sudden appearance of the old hermit character, all give a certain unease.
There's also the haunting feeling of the film, as Anna's friends begin, almost immediately to forget about her. Soon, they don't seem to care a jot about her, and neither, in a sense, do we. It's this feeling of loose ends and guilt on our part(for joining her so called 'friends' in forgetting about her so quickly) that leaves the deepest impression. The characters in this film are so morally shallow(the ending bears this out) yet they are the reason this film leaves such a strong impression on those who watch it, and who become captivated by it.
I cant recommend this film to everyone because I know that the Hollywood Blockbuster has reduced most modern cinema-goers attention spans to almost zero. But if you fancy a challenge, or merely wish to luxuriate in classic cinema.....begin here.