Michelangelo Antonioni's masterpiece L' Avventura became famous because it was said that nothing ever happened in the film. It was a search for a person that didn't have a resolution and a love story that didn't have a conclusion. L' Avventura in English means 'The Adventure,' which is very ironic since little adventure really takes place. The premiere of L’Avventura, at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1960, was a complete disaster, as the film was booed by members of the audience, with catcalls erupting throughout the auditorium, and it is said that Antonioni and Vitti fled the theater. But the critics loved it and so after a second screening it won the Jury Prize and went on to both international box office success. A few years later, in a Sight and Sound poll of 100 critics around the world, it was judged to be one of the ten best films of all time, and it is now looked at as a classic and one of the few turning points in the evolution of a more mature cinematic art form. L' Avventura tells the simple story about a woman who disappears during a Mediterranean boating trip, and during the subsequent search, her lover and her best friend become romantically involved. L' Avventura is noted for its careful pacing, which puts a focus on visual composition and character development, as well as for its unusual narrative structure. Aldo Scavarda's brilliant cinematography is haunting and strangely hypnotic, as he places character's off-center within the shots of the frame, as large rocks and the crashing of the waves give audiences the frightening feeling that the earth will swallow the characters whole. Filmed on several beautiful locations within the city of Rome including the Aeolian Islands, Sicily and under difficult financial and physical conditions, L'Avventura also made unknown Monica Vitti an international star.
What makes the L' Avventura such a mysterious and ambiguous art film is it's subtle homages to the films of Alfred Hitchcock. First off, the disappearance of the main character Anna who suddenly drops out of the film and is never seen again, is greatly reminiscent to the Janet Leigh character in Psycho. Then there's the scene at the Chiesa del Collegio where Claudia tugs on a rope that rings the Cathedral bells which reminds audiences of the ending of Hitchcock's Vertigo. And finally it's the haunting memory of Anna that lingers within the back of both character's and audiences minds throughout L' Avventura, which is similar to the memory of the deceased character of Rebecca in Hitchcock's Rebecca. Antonioni is known more as a 'woman's' director and L' Avventura is considered the first of a trilogy that explores the emotional alienation between a man and a woman within the contemporary world of modernization. Antonioni's second film was La Notte released in 1961, which was followed by his most radical L' Eclisse in 1962. The character's in L' Avventura are wealthy, soulless, unhappy people who use the word 'love' as more like an attempt to pass the time throughout their meaningless existence, and I believe these character's don't know how to love because they don't even love themselves. "Too shallow to be truly lonely,'' critic Pauline Kael wrote, "they are people trying to escape their boredom by reaching out to one another and finding only boredom once again. The characters are active only in trying to discharge their anxiety. Sex is their sole means of contact.''
Anna (Lea Massari) meets up with her friend Claudia (Monica Vitti) at her father's villa on the outskirts of Rome to leave on a yachting cruise on the Mediterranean with a group of friends. Anna's father tells his daughter before she leaves about her fiancée saying, "I might as well speak truthfully to my own daughter now. My darling daughter, that guy-he'll never marry you." Anna just says, "up to now, I didn't want to marry him."
Anna and Claudia drive into Rome to Isola Tiberina near the Pons Fabricius to meet up with Anna's fiancée Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti) who she hasn't seen in several months. You can see from Anna's hesitations she doesn't want to go up and retrieve him saying, "I feel as if I'd rather not see him today. It's harrowing having to be apart. Really. It's difficult keeping a relationship going, while one is here and the other is there." Anna is about to leave when Sandro calls out to her from his building window.
When going up to see him she doesn't say a word and starts to undress to make love with him. When Sandro says she has a friend downstairs waiting for them Anna says, "let her wait." Interestingly, Anna originally didn't even want to see her fiancee and yet in the next scene their making love inside his apartment while Claudia is outside waiting for them.
After some time later the three of them all drive to the coast where they meet two other wealthy couples and start to set sail. The next morning the yacht reaches the Aeolian Islands north of Sicily, and after they pass Basiluzzo, Anna impulsively jumps into the water for a swim, and Sandro jumps in after her. When Anna yells that she's seen a shark, Sandro comes to her side to help her.
Later back on board Anna starts laughing as she secretly confesses to Claudia that the "whole shark thing was a lie," but doesn't give a direct answer on why she did it. Claudia says to her, "I don't need to know why you behave this way."
At one of the smaller islands of Lisca Bianca, the group comes ashore and Anna and Sandro go off alone along the rocks and Anna says to Sandro, "A month is too long a time. I had grown used to being alone." Sandro doesn't really want to discuss their relationships problems at that very moment and tells Anna they'll have all the time to discuss it when they get married. Anna says, "Under these circumstances getting married would mean nothing." Sandro says to her, "words are becoming less and less necessary, they create misunderstandings."
Anna decides to just want to be alone and when Sandro asks for how long she says, "to be alone longer: two months, a year, three years! I know it sounds absurd. I'm distraught. The idea of losing you makes me want to die... and yet... I don't feel you anymore." Sandro then says to her, "even yesterday, at my place you didn't feel me any more?" She's disgusted by his comment as Sandro gets tired of her complaints and eventually ignores her by taking a nap on the rocks.
Sometime later their friend Corrado decides to leave the small island because he's worried about the weather and the rough waters. They hear a boat nearby and eventually wanting to leave Claudia calls out for Anna. They start looking for her but she has vanished without a trace with Sandro annoyed saying, "This is one of those typical 'Anna behaviors' that drives me mad."
They explore the whole island and find nothing and eventually Sandro, Claudia and Corrado decide to continue their search on the island while sending the others off to notify the authorities. Sandro, Corrado, and Claudia continue their search and end up at a shack where they stay the night.
That evening Sandro believes Claudia thinks her disappearance is somewhat his doing and when he confronts her about it she says, "you should have made more of an effort in trying to understand Anna's thoughts instead of mine."
In the morning Claudia wakes up before the others and watches the sunrise and during that morning meets Sandro out near the cliffs and he asks her if Anna ever talks about him, with her saying "rarely and if so tenderly." Sandro then says, "and still...she acted as though our love, yours, her father's, mine in a matter of speaking, was nothing to her...meant nothing to her."
During the two of them searching, Sandro starts flirting with Claudia making her uncomfortable and she tries to distance herself away from him. The police arrive and conduct a thorough search, but find nothing and eventually Anna's father, a former diplomat, also arrives in a high-speed hydrofoil.
The police announce that smugglers were arrested nearby and are being held in Milazzo so Sandro decides to question them, but before leaving makes an aggressive pass on Claudia by grabbing her and kissing her leaving her stunned and bewildered. Everyone in the group all agrees to meet up at Corrado's Villa Montaldo in Palermo later on.
At the Milazzo police station Sandro realizes the smugglers know nothing about Anna's disappearance and when he discovers that Claudia has arrived from the islands and is leaving on the train, he rushes to meet her at the train station.
Their mutual attraction is evident, but Claudia urges him not to complicate matters and begs him to leave; but he wants to leave with her. She boards a train to Palermo, and as the train pulls away, Sandro runs after it and jumps aboard. On the train Claudia is annoyed, saying:
"I don't want you with me. As you'll have to, this sacrifice is better if made right now."
"Sacrifice. I have no intention of sacrificing myself...Why? For whom! I would understand your qualms if Anna were here, but she's not. Wouldn't it be much better to look at things for what they are"?
"To me they're exactly the same as three days ago when we first met. Just three days ago, can you imagine? How can it be that it takes so little to change, to forget?"
"It takes even less."
Sandro relents and finally gets off the train at Castroreale letting Claudia go. At Messina Sandro tracks down the journalist, Zuria, who wrote an article about Anna's disappearance. Their meeting is interrupted by crowds of excited men following a beautiful nineteen year old 'writer' and aspiring actress named Gloria Perkins.
Sandro stops to admire her beauty, and after the interruption Zuria says he heard stories that Anna was spotted by a chemist in Troina. After bribing Zuria to run another story on Anna, Sandro heads to Troina.
Meanwhile Claudia meets up with her boating companions at Corrado's Villa Montaldo in Palermo. No one seems to take Anna's disappearance seriously except Claudia. Even Corrado's young wife Giulia openly flirts with the young prince in front of her husband and they secretly have an affair when he shows her his paintings.
After reading Zuria's followup story, Claudia decides to leave the villa for Troina to continue her search. In Troina Sandro questions the chemist who claimed to have sold tranquilizers to Anna. Claudia then arrives and the both of them learn that the woman identified by the chemist left on a bus to Noto in southern Sicily so Sandro and Claudia resume their search together and drive south.
Outside Noto they stop at a deserted village, and find a hill overlooking the town where they finally let out there sexual desires and make love while a train goes by with Claudia moaning, "mine...mine...mine..."
They then leave and continue their search for Anna, while Claudia slowly starts developing feelings for Sandro. Later in town they go to the Trinacria Hotel where they believe Anna is staying and Claudia tells Sandro to go in alone so it won't make things awkward for the two of them.
While Claudia waits outside, a crowd of men gather around her eyeing her beauty up and down which interestingly she doesn't seem to notice because she suddenly thinks she sees Sandro and Anna coming down the stairs and she panics and runs into a paint store.
When Sandro goes into the paint store and confirms that Anna is not there, Claudia feels ashamed of how she reacted thinking that Sandro found Anna. This is finally where the story completely changes momentum and Anna's character disappears into the background but her absence will continue to haunt the narrative of the story.
"Oh Sandro, I'm so ashamed. Did you see that? I was trying to hide. I feel so measly. I hate myself, because what I'm doing is ugly. Because if you were to tell me right now 'Claudia I love you', I'd believe you! I'd believe you!!" Sandro tells her that whatever is happening between them they can't do anything about it. Claudia steps outside and says to him, "to think that you must have told Anna these same things I don't know how many times..."
Sandro tells her he's never met a woman like her who needs to see everything clearly. They both decide to go for a walk and they head down to Chiesa del Collegio where a nun shows them the view of a cathedral from the roof. Sandro is admiring the architecture saying, "such imagination. Such movement. Such extraordinary freedom. I'd like to work on design again."
When Claudia asks him why he stopped he says, "why, why, why...Because it isn't easy to admit that a red floor suits a certain room, when you're thinking exactly the opposite. But the lady wants it red. Because there is always a lady...or a man...and so..." Sandro then asks why Claudia's looking at him a certain way and she tell him it's because she's convinced he could make really beautiful things.
While standing up on the roof Sandro asks Claudia if they should get married. Claudia is shocked and asks, "what do you mean, shall we get married?" Sandro is waiting for an answer and Claudia says, "no. I wasn't even thinking about it. At a time like this...But why are you asking me? Are you sure you want to marry me? Really sure? Why aren't things less complicated. I'd like to see things clearly, and instead..." Claudia then tugs on a rope that rings the church bell which makes the other tower bells in the city start ringing as well.
At Messina Sandro and Claudia check into the Domenico Palace Hotel where Sandro's employer Ettore and his wife Patrizia are preparing for a party. Claudia is now greatly in love with Sandro happily playing music and dancing to it in her hotel room.
Claudia now accepts Sandro as her lover and believes she truly loves him. Anna now is forgotten and Sandro and Claudia no longer mourn for her. She served a function in the beginning of the film and now that she is gone, that function must be filled by another. When Sandro walks in Claudia's room Claudia naively says, "why have I fallen in love with you so?"
Sandro decides to go for a walk down in the Piazzo Municipo but before leaving Claudia tells him he must admit to her that leaving without her is like missing a limb. "Tell me you love me," she asks him before leaving. He says I love you and she asks him to say it again. He this time says, "I don't love you." She smiles and says, "I deserve that."
Probably the most important scene of the film is when Sandro is in the Piazza Municipo looking for an art museum. Realizing it's closed he then notices architectural ink sketches left by one of the art students. With his key chain he purposely knocks over the ink onto the sketch. The student notices this and confronts Sandro knowing he did it deliberately. Sandro suddenly gets extremely hostile with the student asking him how old he is. When the student says 23 Sandro says, "I have been 23 too, and I was in so many fights you can't even imagine."
When returning back to the hotel room Sandro walks into Claudia's room and walks out onto the balcony looking at all the architecture on the buildings. He then closes the windows of her bedroom and aggressively tries to have sex with Claudia. "No Sandro...please!" yells Claudia. Claudia stops him and says, "I feel as though I don't know you." Sandro crudely replies, "Aren't you happy? You get to have a new fling." Sandro then says he's just joking but this cruel side of him is a sort of foreshadowing of the end of the film.
That evening when Patrizia's party begins Claudia decides not to attend the party because she's sleepy and decides to go to bed early. Sandro decides to still go down and attend and during the party Sandro again recognizes the beautiful aspiring actress Gloria Perkins.
Back in the room Claudia is unable to sleep and noticing that Sandro has not yet returned, she goes downstairs to Patrizia's room to inquire about Sandro. Claudia confesses to Patrizia that she's afraid Anna has returned and that Sandro will go back to her. "I'm afraid Anna has come back. I can feel it that they're together," she says. "Only a few days ago, only at the thought of Anna might be dead, I felt I could have died too. Now I won't even cry. I am afraid she might be alive! Everything is becoming so hideously simple. Even to get rid of pain."
While searching the hotel, believing she'll find Sandro and Anna together she eventually comes across Sandro and Gloria Perkins on a coach having sex. She doesn't say a word as her and Sandro both lock eyes and she immediately turns and runs away.
The last sequence of the film shows Claudia on the roof of the hotel terrace. Sandro runs to find her and is ashamed. He sits down on a bench and says nothing; and eventually breaks down and cries. Claudia approaches him and the expression she gives him is not of love or forgiveness but of pity. She hesitates at first but eventually places her hand on Sandro's head in a gesture of compassion and comfort.
Shooting began in August 1959 and lasted until January 15, 1960. Antononi began filming the island sequence with the scenes immediately after Anna disappears. The majority of shooting on the island was filmed on the island Lisca Bianca (white fish bone) with a cast and crew of 50 people. Other locations for the island sequence included Panarea (which was also the production's headquarters), Mondello and Palermo. Filming the island sequence was intended to take three weeks but ended up lasting for four months. Difficulties included the islands being infested with rats, mosquitoes and reptiles, the weather being unexpectedly cold and the Navy ship hired to transport the cast and crew to the island everyday never showing up. The crew had to personally build small rafts out of empty gas canisters and wooden planks to carry personal items and equipment to the island, which were towed by a launching tub every morning.
One week after shooting began, the film's production company went bankrupt, leaving the production in short supplies of food and water. Antonioni still had a large supply of film stock and managed to get the cast and crew to work for free until funding for the film was found. At one point, ships stopped making trips to Lisca Bianca and the cast and crew were stranded for three days without food or blankets. Eventually the crew went on strike and Antonioni and his Assistant Director shot the film themselves. Due to the rough condition of the sea and the difficulty in landing a ship on the rough rocks of Lisca Bianca, the cast and crew were often forced to sleep on the island. Antonioni has stated that he "woke up every morning at 3 o'clock in order to be alone and reflect on what I was doing in order to re-load myself against fatigue and a strange form of apathy or absence of will, which often took hold of us all." After several weeks of working without a budget the production company Cino del Duca agreed to finance the film and sent money to Antonioni.
While shooting on the 40-foot yacht for scenes early in the film the cast and crew totaled 23 people. Antonioni had wanted to shoot the film chronologically, but the yacht was not available until November. Due to the cold weather, actress Lea Massari developed a cardiac condition after spending several days swimming in the Mediterranean Sea during filming and spent several days in a coma after being rushed to Rome for medical treatment.
After completing the island sequence, filming continued throughout Sicily and Italy. The sequence on the train from Castroreale to Cefalù took two days to shoot instead of the intended three hours. The scene in Messina where Sandro encounters Gloria Perkins took two days to shoot and Antononi initially wanted 400 extras. Only 100 showed up so crew members recruited passerbys on the street to appear in the scene. The sequence where Sandro and Claudia visit a deserted town was shot in Santa Panagia, near Catania in Sicily and was an example of fascist Mezzogiorno architecture, which was commissioned by Benito Mussolini. The scene where Sandro and Claudia first have sex took ten days to shoot due to the crew having to wait for a train to pass by every morning.
Antonioni wrote that the film was " expressed through images in which I hope to show not the birth of an erroneous sentiment, but rather the way in which we go astray in our sentiments. Because as I have said, our moral values are old. Our myths and conventions are old. And everyone knows that they are indeed old and outmoded. Yet we respect them."
A group of rich Italians is on a cruise off the coast of Sicily when one of their number—a moody, unhappy girl—disappears. Murder, kidnap, accident, suicide? Her boyfriend and her close woman friend search for her, but the search turns into a new love story, and the mystery is never resolved.
With this simple, elusive tale, director Michelangelo Antonioni launched himself into the forefront of the new emerging European art cinema. At the time of the film’s premiere he was 46 and had directed five previous features, all of them interesting but none of them able to massively capture the public’s attention. The premiere of L’Avventura, at Cannes in May 1960, was a disaster, with catcalls erupting throughout the auditorium. But the critics loved it and so—when it went on international release—did the public. With L’Avventura Antonioni’s career was made and the film is now an acknowledged classic.
Forty years ago, the film struck audiences mainly with its freshness; it can still have this effect today. It surprises with its insights: characters do unexpected things in unexpected places, but in a way that provokes recognition: yes, that does happen, though it doesn’t conform to clichés of how we think things ought to happen.
At the beginning of the film, Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti) and his girlfriend Anna (Lea Massari) have an uneasy relationship. They have been apart for a while and getting together again they feel like strangers. When the cruise yacht stops at a deserted volcanic island Anna goes for a walk and doesn’t come back. The rest of the film hinges around the search for this girl who has mysteriously disappeared.
In fact, only two members of the cruise party pursue the search with any conviction: Sandro and Anna’s best friend Claudia (Monica Vitti). The search is complicated because Sandro soon gets distracted from looking for Anna and turns his attentions to Claudia. His inconstancy is not explained. There is little psychologizing and certainly no moralizing. After much hesitation, Claudia returns his affection and the two fall in love.
From the moment that Sandro’s pursuit of Claudia is suddenly converted into mutual passion the film changes momentum. Anna recedes more into the background but her absence continues to haunt the narrative, right until the very end. This absence—which is also a presence—is a key to the film. It inevitably brings to mind a comparison to Hitchcock, who plays with a similar motif in Rebecca (1940) and Vertigo (1958), and also dispatches his heroine early in the film in a film exactly contemporary with L’Avventura —Psycho. (Antonioni would later develop another Hitchcock theme, that of the wrong man, in The Passenger in 1975.)
In other respects, however, Antonioni and Hitchcock can be seen as opposites. In L’Avventura, events just happen; nothing signals them as significant. Anna does not actively disappear, she just is no longer on screen and neither the audience nor the other characters are aware of her not being present. Tension is generally slack and, when it builds, it builds obscurely, brought to life more by a surrounding uncertainty than by careful preparation and accelerating rhythms. Above all, chance is chance and no inexorable train of events is ever generated.
What L’Avventura showed was that films do not have to be structured around major events, that very little drama can happen and a film can still be fascinating to its audience. It also showed—and this was harder for audiences to grasp—that events in films do not have to be, in an obvious way, meaningful. L’Avventura presents its characters behaving according to motivations unclear to themselves as much as to the audience; they are sensitive to mood, to landscape, to things that happen, but they also behave in routine and conformist ways. None of them, except Claudia (who had, in her words, “a sensible childhood…without any money”), seems to have much consciousness of the lack of direction that afflicts them. They are, to use a word very fashionable at the time the film came out, alienated. But to say, as many critics did, that the film is “about” alienation is to miss the point. The film shows, it doesn’t argue. It convinces by the sensitivity and accuracy of its observation, not by heavy signals to the audience to think this, that, or the other.
More than any other film L’Avventura seems to define the spirit of a time in cinema when anything seemed possible and there was no territory into which it could not venture. Above all what it seeks to capture is the world of fleeting emotion, feelings which are unstable and crystallize only momentarily in the camera’s gaze. After L’Avventura, Antonioni did not look back. He made three further films with Vitti—The Night (1961), Eclipse (1962), and Red Desert (1964)—each time pushing further back the frontiers of what cinema could explore. It is hard to say which of these films is the best. But L’Avventura is the one that started Antonioni on his quest, and remains the one that most clearly represents the unique nature of his art.
Many films are called “classic,” but few qualify as turning points in the evolution of cinematic language, films that opened the way to a more mature art form. Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura (The Adventure) is such a work. It divided film history into that which came before and that which was possible after its epochal appearance. It expanded our knowledge of what a film could be and do. It is more than a classic, it’s an historical milestone.
Antonioni was little known in Europe, and none of his films had been seen in the United States, when L’Avventura, his sixth feature, was released in 1960. Almost overnight it catapulted the Italian director to the front ranks of world cinema and made an international celebrity of its star, Monica Vitti, a stage actress appearing in her first film role. A few years later, in a Sight and Sound poll of 100 critics around the world, it was judged to be one of the ten best films of all time.
A wealthy young woman (Lea Massari) disappears from an island off Sicily during a pleasure cruise. While searching for her, her fiance (Gabriele Ferzetti) and her best friend (Monica Vitti) become lovers. But their affair is troubled, and the film ends with their future and the fate of the missing woman unresolved. Around this minimal and enigmatic set of events, Antonioni constructed a revolutionary masterpiece of great beauty, economy, and deep moral seriousness, one of the few films that stands comparison with our century’s most important works of art.
L’Avventura was the first in a trilogy of films (La notte, 1961, and L'eclisse, 1962, are the others) concerned with the familiar postwar existential themes of alienation, non-communication, and the failure to find meaning in a world of obsolete values. But it is not so much about “meaninglessness” as about the characters’ response to it—namely, a retreat into sexuality as a superficial substitute for meaningful work.
In L’Avventura_ everyone except Claudia—especially her lover Sandro—seeks solace in erotic liaisons to cover the emptiness they feel, having unconsciously refused to make their lives meaningful. They represent what Antonioni has called “the malady of the emotional life,” summed up in his famous remark, “Eros is sick.”
But L’Avventura is as life-affirming as it is pessimistic. On one level, the film’s title refers to Claudia’s spiritual journey toward self-knowledge. She alone seems open, searching, questioning, seeking. What matters is not the result of her journey—signified at the end by a single tentative gesture—but the journey itself, the search, and the way she lives it out. The sense of an uncertain spiritual quest gives this austere, unsentimental movie its profound emotional depth.
Antonioni’s great achievement was to put the burden of narration almost entirely on the image itself, that is, on the characters’ actions and on the visual surface of their environment. He uses natural or manmade settings to evoke his characters’ state of mind, their emotions, their life circumstances. We learn more about them by watching what they do than by hearing what they say. We follow the story more by reading images than we do by listening to dialogue. The settings are not symbolic or metaphoric—they are extensions, manifestations, of the characters’ psyches. Physical landscape and mental landscape become one.
This is as “pure” as narrative cinema gets. And it is why L’Avventura is so perfectly suited to the laserdisc medium. If ever a film demanded the still frame, variable speed, and random access capabilities of the CAV laserdisc format, it is L’Avventura. Every frame requires the same contemplation and reflection that we give to the work of our greatest still photographers or painters—and each frame can be studied in its original wide-screen format. A great medium suits a great master’s greatest work.
If you think L' Avventura is a mystery about the search for Anna then you are completely missing the point of the film. Critic Roger Ebert says, "It is about the sense in which all of the characters are on the brink of disappearance; their lives are so unreal and their relationships so tenuous they can barely be said to exist. They are like bookmarks in life: holding places, but not involved in the story." The character's are rich, spoiled, unhappy, empty vessels that believe finding another partner to hold on to will solve their problems.
Antonioni never gives us an answer to what had happened to the character of Anna, as Antonioni purposely likes to leave plotlines and multiple story threads dangling and not tie them up. In Blow-up a photographer believes he has been a witness to a murder and when bringing others to the scene of the crime the body is no longer there; and the mystery of the murder is never solved. In L' Eclisse Antonioni starts the film in the middle of one story ending and ends the film in the middle of one story beginning.
Aldo Scavarda's brilliant cinematography in L' Avventura is beautiful and strangely hypnotic. The shots of the large islands and the rocks and the crashing of the waves where people are placed off-center gives it the frightening feeling that the earth will swallow them whole. The shots of the city of Rome and the churches and Cathedrals are gorgeously composed with each character's composition perfectly placed in each shot of the background.
Along with much of Antonioni's other work, L'Avventura is often cited as an early feminist film with strong and richly characterized female protagonists, who are the liberating freedom of female sexuality. Anna can be looked at as a strong female character who chooses to liberate herself from her male-chauvinistic husband, setting herself free.
What really did happen to Anna? There's an interesting shot in the film after Claudia starts calling out for Anna where you can see a boat in the distance floating away. Did she get on that boat and leave? Did she drown or fall of the cliff? Or did she commit suicide? We only are given what is shown to us and we can come up with our own conclusions. According to Alain Robbe-Grillet, many shots in the 'continental' part of the film are taken from the point of view of an unseen character, as if Anna was following Sandro and Claudia to see what they would do. When asked, Antonioni told Robbe-Grillet that there was a particular scene that was scripted which would show Anna's body being recovered from the sea but fortunately it didn't make it into the final cut, apparently for timing reasons.
Michelangelo Antonioni is a very unique Italian director and his most famous works are his three films L' Avventura in 1960, La Notte in 1961 and L' Eclipse in 1962 which are considered a trilogy because of its similar themes concerning the alienation of man in the modern world. He first color film Red Desert also dealt with similar themes and some even consider it the fourth film in the series in which stars Monica Vitti, who was his lover during that period. In 1966 he directed his other masterpiece Blow-up which is about a photographer believing some photographs he had taken might be a potential murder scene and the film brings up theme's on the truth of a person's memory. The Passenger in 1975 starring Jack Nicholson is about a man leading a different man's life and identity.
One of the recurring themes in Antonioni's films are characters who suffer from ennui and whose lives are empty and purposeless aside from the gratification of pleasure or the pursuit of material wealth. Film historian David Bordwell writes that in Antonioni films, "Vacations, parties and artistic pursuits are vain efforts to conceal the characters' lack of purpose and emotion. Sexuality is reduced to casual seduction, enterprise to the pursuit of wealth at any cost." I have noticed that there's a lot of Alfred Hitchcock themes in L' Avventura that I'm not sure are done intentionally in this film. First off it's the disappearance of the main character Anna who suddenly drops out of the film and is never seen again, which is similar to the Janet Leigh's character in Psycho except we as an audience know the outcome of her character. Then there's the scene at the Chiesa del Collegio where Claudia tugs on a rope that rings the church bells which reminds me of the ending of Hitchcock's Vertigo. And it's also the haunting memory of Anna that lingers within the back of both character's minds like Joan Fontaine's character of Rebecca in Hitchcock's film Rebecca.
These character's in L' Avventura in many ways are very selfish and insecure. I believe Sandro looks at himself as a failure because he brings up his failings as an architect several times in the film and feels he never truly accomplished what he always wanted to achieve. The one scene in particular that I believe is the most important part of the film is where Sandro is at the Piazza Municipo where he purposely ruins a student's sketch. I got from that scene was that Sandro is bitter that his life hadn't turned out the way he had wanted it to and when he sees this young architect doing the work he used to live for he becomes jealous and knocks the young man down a peg by purposely ruining his work. Afterwards he goes back to the hotel room and forcibly tries to have sex with Claudia. Sandro is filled with anger and anxiety and tries to release these feelings on Claudia through sex, and she notices something is wrong. Sandro is a person who realized the life he wanted passed him by and I believe he uses women as a sexual gratification to cover up his own disappointments of his own life. Anna probably knew about his narcissistic character traits over the years being engaged to him which could be the explanation of her disappearance or suicide. Released in 1960, L'Avventura became a joke to refer to "Antonioniennui.'' the film was booed by members of the audience during its première at the Cannes Film Festival and Antonioni and Vitti fled the theater; but after a second screening it won the Jury Prize and went on to both international box office success. L'Avventura influenced the visual language of cinema, changing how subsequent films looked, and has been named by some critics as one of the best ever made and is a personal favorite of mine. However, it has been criticized by others for its seemingly uneventful plot and slow pacing along with existentialist themes. In 2010, it was ranked #40 in Empire magazine's "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema." The only hopeful character in L' Avventura is Claudia because she's still on a spiritual journey trying to find a place and purpose for herself in her life. The one selfish trait that she has is her impulsive infatuation that she believes is 'love' with a stranger she's only known for a few days which has gotten her to not anymore care about her friend's whereabouts. Her insecurity and fear of losing Sandro eventually has her want the worst outcome for Anna, so she can have Sandro all for herself. Even so I believe there is still hope for Claudia at the end. The last shot of the film is masterful as it shows Claudia on the roof of the hotel terrace. Sandro runs to find her and is ashamed. He sits down on a bench and says nothing; and eventually breaks down and cries. Claudia approaches him and the expression she gives him is not of love or forgiveness but of pity. I believe she finally awoken from her fictional infatuation that she believed was love and now for the first time sees things clearly, which gives her redemption for her future as a human being. She hesitates at first but eventually places her hand on Sandro's head in a gesture of compassion and comfort. There's one set of dialog that the two say earlier in the film that sum up the truth of the whole picture.
"Tell me you love me."
"I love you."
"Tell me again."
"I don't love you."
" I deserve that."