1 August 2007 | UnholyBlackMetal
A brutal study of alienation.
Having recently seen L'Avventura and Scenes from a Marriage back to back they seem as different as it is possible to be. Yet they do share a common ground, namely humanity's quest for love and understanding and the seemingly insurmountable obstacles that lie in the way. But whereas Bergman's film has moments of true warmth and happiness, Antonioni's L'Avventura is as brutally cold as a Scandinavian winter.
Plot summary is not entirely important (and would spoil potential surprises), suffice to say that the movie is uniquely structured and may not proceed the way you expect it to. There is a mystery, and romance; but not in any traditional sense. The men and women of this film stumble through a loveless, desolate Italy, occasionally pausing for forced, wretched couplings. Alienation and the inability for humans to connect to one another have never been so painfully presented in film.
While discussing the guilt felt in betraying a mutual friend a woman asks "How can it be that it takes so little to change, to forget?" to which the man responds, "It takes even less." Before one of the films many desperate scenes of impersonal copulation the woman cries out in a fit of existential despair, "I feel as though I don't know you!" to which the man responds, "Aren't you happy? You get to have a new fling." The film is so brutally cynical about friendship, love and human interaction that it feels unreal. Strange alien landscapes, magnificently filmed among the rocky islands around Italy serve to underline the insurmountably barren distances between the characters. And as they grope and fumble for some kind of connection in the darkness that surrounds them, the viewer is pulled into their mire as well.
When they are not desperately searching for some kind of connection with each other, the characters struggle to come to terms with their own absurd existence. A man knocks over a bottle of ink, destroying an art student's in-progress drawing. A woman makes faces in a mirror at herself. Another woman pretends to see a shark in the ocean she is swimming in. None of these distractions are remotely successful.
By the time the film has reached its unbelievably cynical ending (dependant on one of the most effective uses of a musical score in film history), it becomes clear. These people have lost their way.
This overwhelming bleakness seems like it would create an unbearable viewing experience, but there is a truth to it all as well. Companionship is a basic human need, and it can often seem impossibly difficult to form any real connection. However, what is important is that it only seems that way, it is not impossible. Antonioni has shown us only one possible outcome. By watching a movie filled with people slouching towards oblivion, unable to form even the most basic human bond, the mind rebels. There must be another way