At it’s world premier in 1960 Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura was famously booed by members of the audience at the Cannes Film Festival with both the director and star Monica Vitti forced to flee the building. Then after a second screening the film won the Jury Prize.
L’Avventura, like a lot of Antonioni’s later films with L’Eclisse as the prime example, starts with a relationship in crisis. Anna meets her friend Claudia, played by the luminous Monica Vitti, at her rich father’s villa in Rome and they’re driven off to meet Anna’s boyfriend Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti) to take a yachting cruise with friends. It’s soon clear that Anna finds her relationship with Sandro not entirely satisfying.
On the surface L’Avventura is about what happens when the impulsive Anna disappears when the group go ashore on one of the small Aeolian Islands north of Sicily. The disappearance at the centre of the work remains frustratingly unresolved, and the adventure of the title is less about the search for the lost heiress and more about her friend Claudia’s emotional search for meaning and emotional fulfillment, which may or may not include the womanizing Sandro.
Antonioni’s camera in L’Avventura creates a new type of visual truth. It offers you a revelation that’s more important than the mere solving of a mystery.
The movie takes us on a long journey around Sicily, with the search for Anna gradually receding into the background. The focus is on the visual composition of the towns and landscapes, and on the development of the remaining characters, no longer really searching for their missing friend and lover, but for identity and meaning in their own lives.
In L’Avventura Antonioni invented a new visual language, a new iconography that made Monica Vitti an international star. On the island Vitti and Ferzetti are shot like impermanent sculptures, blown by the wind and framed by the uncaring sea. L’Avventura asks more questions of the viewer than it resolves.
The visual style in Antonioni’s work is often breathtaking. Look into Monica Vitti’s eyes and lose yourself. Immerse yourself in the tableaux of these people searching for themselves. The adventure of self-discovery is one that the viewer is urged to take just as much as the central characters. Life itself is the adventure.
It would be too simplistic to call this an existentialist film. Events happen in life that cannot be explained. People come into and leave your life sometimes for no apparent reason.
Antonioni’s camera in L’Avventura creates a new type of visual truth. It offers you a revelation that’s perhaps more important than the mere solving of a mystery.