Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura (1960) – Why Absence is a Death Sentence

Michelangelo Antonioni Marathon Part I of V

You must become the new before you can become the old. Seems obvious, right? If you cannot keep up with love, if you cannot conserve love, humanity sees you as strictly space. Like the film suggests, in “10-20 years” anything can become a ghost: a person, a place, a memory, the definition of what it had been to others dies and dies with them unless it becomes redefined through a means of secondary purpose, of secondary perspective or use by another. Existence is just a competition for relevancy.

“It’s torture being apart. Really. It’s difficult keeping a relationship going with one person here and the other there. But it’s convenient because you can imagine anything you like. Do you see? Whereas when somebody’s right in front of you, that’s all you get. Know what I mean?”

Anna fatigued her life away by associating her reality with failure. The seclusion of herself from people like her fiancé became her euphoria, her way of treating existence. Yet, this introversion towards society became the death of her. One day, she meets up with her friends on a remote island and suddenly vanishes from the face of the Earth. Her desire was answered…

This mysterious disappearance of her’s satirically fills a role for her best friend (Claudia) and even her lousy lover (Sandro) who she’s been emotionally detaching from for quite some time. The guilt that results from her departure in both Claudia and Sandro appears as an afterthought that bills the mood for the rest of L’Avventura, popping up to be dealt with by these main characters only when convenient. Claudia falls romantically for Anna’s lover whenever she doesn’t sense the biblical deja vu presence of Anna and Sandro searches for his presumably “dead” lover to only provoke that of Claudia’s interest in him. Love was replaced by love, all as a result from our inflating egotism, a fear of becoming the old such as dear Anna had and the mental wave that accomplished it for her. These three people and their supporting counterparts may live bourgeoisie lifestyles, but they feel no more morally put together, no more psychologically superior than the rest of us — and they’re beginning to finally realize that. It’s the social struggle vs. the anti-social struggle, and how the two bridge and play havoc. 

All you need is a delicate artifact, some old mission bells, an ink spill, or something of that matter to give Antonioni a visual challenge to connect his themes to metaphors, and he does it near perfect in L’Avventura as far as I’m concerned. We battle with our animal tendencies, our command of raw, natural instinct to a point of blinded-out contradiction. Lust, affairs, the deflection to care, the attraction to move on just to mark an extra territory before our eventual demise, etc.; we are nothing more than the sum of a biological code that conflictingly wants us to be something “better” than just that, and our invention and power abuse of the “love” construct is the greatest proof of it. Umm, happy Valentine’s Day, readers? Hehe? *sigh*

But s**t, someone set up Antonioni and Wong Kar-wai on a date, ironically though, haha.

Verdict: A

My Favorite Movies of All-Time, Michelangelo Antonioni Ranked

“L’Avventura” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

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