Michelangelo Antonioni Marathon Part IV of V
Red Desert feels like a precursor to what occurs in The Passenger (1975), or maybe just a more explanatory version of it. Hmm… it could be the original Safe (1995) too.
Michelangelo Antonioni’s depiction of mental illness feels quite genuine in this, and that’s why I had the need to mention the two other movies above, both of which have portrayed an unknown depression for the surrounding world in a mysteriously relatable way. After surviving a car crash, resulting in a month of hospitalization, Giuliana begins convincing herself that happiness must lie in new ground, ground that is exotic, ground that doesn’t exist among the given societal and technological facets of humanity. She is looking for peace in the abstract world, as it seems to be the only thing that can cure an abstract placement of her undefinable sorrow.
Red Desert suggests that our cries for help can barely be understood by others in a situation like Giuliana’s, and it’s up to us alone to contrive a cure for our discomfort with Earth’s modern, still and shallow environment; the dejection is all in our head, and a reliance on battling the head is the closest strategy to removing a surreal strain of illness. Antonioni admittedly goes on to enhance these ideas to masterful levels in, as mentioned before, his later feature-length The Passenger, but I’m more content that this pre-attempt exists rather than disappointed that it happens to be a couple levels below the director’s other projects.
“Red Desert” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.