Monday, 28 December 2009

I simply loath it, yet I must conform, what can you do?

No 286 - L'Avventura
Director - Michelangelo Antonioni

This film won the Cannes Jury prize in 1960 so I was expecting something unfeasibly glamorous and incredulously cool. I was not expecting something as weird as this which would anger me to the degree that this film did.

It starts with a very familiar and almost cliched set up. Now, I haven't done any research at all on this film, so for all I know it may be the first ever film which begins with a bunch of couples taking a yacht to a remote island for a weekend. That has now become fairly standard fare for films where SOMETHING GOES WRONG.

We follow Anna who is in a long distance relationship with Sandro and who is grumpy and a bit weird. She is finally going to meet up with him on this yacht and so brings along a motley crew of friends and hangers on. Amongst which is Anna's best friend Claudia, the most important of the rest of the group. They share a lot in common in that they're all quite rich and successful and ultimately unsatisfied with their life.
The first hour of the film (because at 2hours and 20, this does not rush the story at all) follows the group as they head towards a deserted island on which they're going to go exploring. Throughout this there are early signs that Anna is bored and unsatisfied with the situation she is in. Either that or she is just mental. She fakes a shark attack whilst swimming and then laughs about the panic and disorder it throws. She also has several conversations in which she discusses how she isn't sure whether or not she wants to stay with Sandro. That she likes the 'long distance' aspect of their relationship more than the relationship itself.

After a while on the island, Anna goes missing and the group are thrown into disarray (all except for Corrado, I think he is the father of one of the girls on the yacht but he continues to be more interested in the archeology of the island). So we get what we expect with search parties and desperate frenzied cries into the sea and the rain.
It is odd because, until this point we kind of have a plot. It is about a weekend adventure on a yacht. It is about Anna not knowing what she wants. It is not the most action packed of stories but it is a story none the less.
Oddly as soon as Anna goes missing we lose the film's plot. More people join the island, there is a bigger sense of purpose but that lasts about 20 minutes. After that the film is just people wandering around Italy.

You see, as they search for Anna they split into groups. The most determined group consisting of Sandro, her fiance, and Claudia, her best friend. As they search for Anna, their feelings for one another get messier and more complicated until they fall in love.
Now I don't know what the time scale for this film is, however I do know that during the search Claudia says that she has only known Sandro for 3 days. So I assume they probably get together after knowing each other for a week... and then Claudia is going on about how madly and passionately she loves him.
I know that Italy is a very passionate country but this seems a bit fast paced.

This is where the film's most interesting and infuriating element comes into play, the character assassination. You see, Claudia becomes overcome with remorse for her actions. She still loves Sandro, and she stays with him, but she feels guilt for what she has done to Anna - she lives in fear that Anna will return, resent her, and steal Sandro back.
Sandro, however, does not seem plagued by the same fears. In fact after getting with Claudia he seems actively disinterested in following leads to find Anna.
The Anna story falls onto the back burner (you never find out where she is or what happened to her) and instead it becomes about the nature of relationships and the differences between the genders.

Men are not painted in the best of lights in this film. Or at the very least, Italian men aren't.
Firstly, let us talk about the strange 'flocking' nature in the film. Sandro leaves Claudia for a moment and it seems like every man in the town flocks to her, just to look at her.
This is repeated when the female author is introduced. She is a glamorous 19 year old and there are apparently about 100 men clamouring to be near her. Now, this is very odd behaviour - made all the worse by Sandro's TERRIBLE behaviour.
After all he has a terrible track record:
Engaged to Anna but she goes missing.
Gets off with Claudia whilst looking for Anna
Gets off with the author whilst leaving Claudia in a hotel bed.

Claudia is shocked but forgives him, and what is the moral of the story? I don't think there is one... except that if your girlfriend is needy enough you can be a whore. If she isn't needy enough 'lose' her on an island and get a new one....

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