L’eclisse (Last of the Alienation Trilogy)

I finally finished watching yesterday Antonioni’s trilogy on Alienation, which I had begun a few months ago with La Notte, by watching the culmination L’eclisse. I liked this last movie quite a lot, though a little less than the powerful La Notte, but more than the first part of the trilogy: L’avventura.
The movie tells the story of fleetingness and disaffection, and is the best depiction of alienation amongst the three movies. There are few words in each of the movies, but L’eclisse takes the lack of dialog to the extreme. The characters in this movie are even more shallow and plagued with a greater indecision. The little dialog is drowned out in background noise of civilization – sound of an electric razor or the din at the stock market or ringing of telephones – the lack of communication between two people is acute and complete.
The whole story of alienation is brought to a wonderful culmination in the last scene, where the discontent of modern man is shown through shots of incomplete buildings, flowing water, growling buses, eroded faces, an unsmiling child and a sharp, blinding streetlight. All of it engulfed by a broken promise and the absence of a rendezvous.

The film tells the story of Vittoria, who breaks off with her fiance in the first scene and then meets Piero, a stockbroker and falls in love with him (if their relationship can be defined by the word love). The relationship remains on the periphery, due to Piero’s materialism and Vittoria’s indefinite aspirations. They endeavor to make their relation a reality with a promise to meet everyday, but the last shot ends with a shot of their proposed meeting place, which stands empty and desolate, indicating the rupture of the promise and an end of the relationship.

The actors have done a brilliant work with the characters, filling up for the lack of dialog. It is not that they act too well, or use their eyes to convey the unspoken. They just exist in a drawl, always full of emotion that stays masked a little thinly. Just perfect for Antonioni’s theme perhaps. I like Monica Vitti in general – specially for her role in L’avventura, but here she supersedes it with a complete foreignness. Alain Delon as Piero is coldly, cruelly very handsome, and reminded me of Daniel Day Lewis in Unbearable Lightness of being.

I had liked watching L’avventura too, though I thought that it ended very abruptly, especially with Claudia (Vitti again) accepting the shallow excuses offered by Sandro and choosing to stay with him despite reasons that had probably led her best friend Anna to escape. The landscape in the movie was stunning, and there, the island and the sea became the symbol of alienation.

A good essay on both movies can be found here and here.

The night

I hate the kind of work life that leaves little space for much else. Unfortunately for the past month, I have pretty much been in that sort of work life and missed out on watching enough movies or reading enough books. And of course writing down about whatever I did watch or read.
To be fair, though, I partially made up for the lack of movie watching in a single weekend by going for a marathon of seven movies over two days. Most of them were the kind of movies that I enjoyed – two of them particularly so: La Notte and The Brave One. Also watched both parts of the Japanese Ringu – much better and far scarier than the English versions that followed as ‘The Ring’ series. I think remakes are a bad idea in general – statistically speaking. Though of course The Ring did make its share of box office money.

I had been meaning to watch Anotnio’s ‘La Notte’ for a long time. (Of course, it is impossible to find sufficient time to do all the things that you would rather do – ironically you spent most of your life doing stuff that you would rather not). La Notte is the story of a night in a couple’s relationship – Giovanni & Lydia – It is a night both in the physical and metaphorical sense of the word. A culmination of what perhaps was a shining relationship, into the dusk of coldness and indifference – leading to the dark hour of perhaps eventual separation. Antonioni, in his typical style which says more through gestures than words, has taken the viewer though this painful sequence of distancing. It makes you wonder why two attractive people who have each other would seek the company and affections of others. In the beginning, this ‘other’-ly interest is subtle. Giovanni’s interest in a nymphomaniac, Lydia’s glances towards streetwalkers. That they are no longer ‘together’ is highlighted by Lydia’s otherworldliness in the presence of her husband. The estrangement is mutual – and it is because they both seemed to have married a concept rather than each other – Giovanni a rich attractive girl desired by many, Lydia a talented writer adored by lot. They try to love the concepts, and are therefore disappointed, annoyed and jealous in the real persons that lives behind those ideas.

The movie has a terrific ending – if novelists don’t know how to wind up their writing, I suppose they can pick up a cue from Antonioni. He knows how to do it in perfection.

Antonioni has done a remarkable work with this movie. It seems very real and un-dramatic. (Except for the scene with the nymphomaniac, which seemed a little out of place). I have really begun to like him quite a lot, though I think he can be (and IS) excruciatingly slow. thought I would hammer Jack Nicholson in ‘The passenger’ to make him move a little faster!
La Notte is supposed to be the second in a trilogy made in combination with L’Avventura and L’eclisse – either of which I have not seen, but will get on to soon. Even though it looks a little unlikely right at this moment.

Memories & objective reality

There are many adjectives that can be used to describe different memories -happy, haunting, scary, embarassing, distinct, elusive, sad and sometimes even perplexing. But perhaps one adjective that can be used more universally with memories is ‘interesting’. No matter which end of what spectrum does a memory fall, it is seldom dull and uninteresting. That could possibly explain the prominent featuring of memories in many works of fiction – written or celluloid.

What makes memories so interesting? While we are still in the present, life hardly seems that interesting. Just by moving on in time does the past become more colorful? Perhaps the mind uses the filters – of preserving only the vivid moments – or does it add the vividness to the routine dullness? That is something we will not know – the mysteries of the mind. What we remember as memories – are they real? Or a snapshot modiefied in the photoshop of our minds?

And why just memories, even the reality that we see is perhaps modified by the medium of our minds through which we see it. That’s why the account of two people seeing the same thing is so different. Kurosawa’s Rashomon focuses upon the impossibility of determining the objective truth, and the complete reliance on individual accounts to arrive at reality. Similarly, we are forced to completely rely on the account that our mind gives us to make an image of reality. ‘Somethings have to be believed to be seen’, and people often see what they believe. After watching a sacry movie, often the shadow of the trees falling on the window takes gruesome shapes.

A brilliant depiction of the enigma called memory is done by Michelangelo Antonioni in his movie Blow-up where a photographer comes to believe that he has captured a murder on his camera. In this convinced state, he even sees a body lying at the spot. But when he returns in the morning, there is no body. And without a proof, he cannot claim to the truth of the murder. He is not even sure if he saw the body or it was an image from his mind. The last scene with the mimic tennis game brings home this point with remarkable clarity and finesse.

I wonder if there truly is an objective reality? What if, like Matrix our minds are projecting a world reality and it is largely uniform accross a number of people only because it is programmed to be so. Sometimes a bit of a fault in the program makes people see an alternative reality and we call them mad, insane or ‘soft in the head’ depending on the degree of deviation. Does what is seen by a majority of people become objective reality? Because 2 out of 3 witnesses said they saw a similiar picture?