La Notte

16 Mar

The film opens with scenes of us moving down the metal and glass of a modern high rise building and some shots of the surrounding landscape. Later we learn this is in fact 6os Milan but it could be anywhere with such anonymous architecture. Soon the married couple Giovanni (Marcello Mastroianni), a successful writer,  and Lidia (Jeanne Moreau) enter another anonymous structure, a hospital to visit Tommaso (Bernhard Wicki), their dying friend. For a moment they pause by the closed door, not knowing whether to touch each other before deciding against it. Lidia breaks off the visit early and on his way out, Giovanni lets himself be seduced by a disturbed young woman, a kind of predator. This will form the pattern for the rest of the film; from early afternoon until the early hours of the morning, we will see the facade of their relationship crumble and turn to dust.

I noted that the first words the main characters speak to each other come after 19 minutes, along with the first contact of their hands, a prelude to Giovanni’s confession about the girl in the hospital and Lidia’s indifference. Alone and unnoticed at Giovanni’s book launch, Lidia wanders off into the suburbs. Modern life keeps intruding on the characters’ search for meaning and connections; the sounds of aeroplanes and rockets fired into the sky.  The brutality of youths fighting horrifies her; she is unable to understand, disconnected from the concrete environment. She turns to men in the street without talking to them, looks in at someone in an office to find a layer of glass separates them. Later when we see Lidia smile and look genuinely happy for a brief moment, we too are separated from her by the car windscreen, unable to hear her voice. The only warmth comes in the moment when the couple briefly reminisce about life in the old area when the train line was still in use but the impersonality of modern city life has removed that. These are people who know each other too well, who have nothing more to say to each other.

It is the night though that will reveal the true nature of people and hold an unforgiving glass up to thir marriage when they attend a party given by a rich industrialist. Escaping the structures of the city, nature has been transformed into a golf course. I don’t want to reveal too much of what happens afterwards, only that I was struck by the feeling that although Antonioni’s film is full of symbolism, it’s as if the symbols themselves have been used up and are now empty in this postmodern world. There is also the sriking similarity between Jeanne Moreau and Monica Vitti towards the end, both with dark hair, fringed black dresses with spaghetti straps and bare shoulders. Vitti’s character is the only one able to really understand the couple yet she too is used up and tired by them in spite of her youth. The ending is one of the most heartbreaking moments, deepening the sense of betrayal and leaving us in no doubt that the couple have nowhere else to go.

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6 Responses to “La Notte”

  1. Des March 16, 2011 at 9:31 am #

    What an excellent, well-written summary. I am going to have to see this now, especially if it is set in 1960s Milan.

    • emilycinephile March 17, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

      Oh thanks Des. It really is a great movie. We don’t see many recognisable places in Milan but it’s definitely a fascinating glimpse of this time and a film I’m definitely going to see again.

  2. Tracy March 16, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

    I’m saddened to admit that I fell asleep while watching this film. I will have to revisit. Much like revisiting a book that one is unable to get into the first time around, but find themselves captivated on that second try.

    • emilycinephile March 17, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

      I often have that problem that maybe the movie is great but it’s just not the right time. I tried to watch the Glass Key a while back and struggled so stopped and switched to something else. Then last week I put it on again and really loved it. This isn’t an easy movie and it’s pretty bleak but very beautiful.

  3. Kat March 17, 2011 at 4:55 pm #

    I love this film! The whole trilogy is amazing. But this one is haunting!
    I really love this blog, it inspires me to watch more good films! Keep it up!
    Kat

    • emilycinephile March 19, 2011 at 8:34 am #

      Thanks so much for the encouragement! Sometimes it’s not easy analysing films but I find it great. I was so inspired by your wonderful post on L’Eclisse which I haven’t seen for years so that’s on the must see list for the next couple of weeks.

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