The Adventure (L'Avventura)

Having admired the formal ingenuity and compositional beauty of Antonioni's The Night, I thought I'd give the first of his trilogy on the jaded middle classes a go. Critical opinion seems to suggest that The Adventure is the more accessible work, having a plot that uncannily mirrors Hitchcock's Psycho (released the same year). Knowing the set up of the film coming in, I found it far more boring. The Night is long, but it is stretched between a brilliant beginning and ending. The Adventure is just long, vaguely episodic but drifting, without the bookends that wrap up La Dolce Vita (also released the same year) in a satisfying package.

The concerns of Antonioni's film are similar to Fellini's – both Italians appear to be going through the sort of existential crisis faced by Sartre and Camus in France 20 years previously, accentuated by economic boom and the arrival of celebrity culture. Traditional (Catholic) morality crumbles all around the protagonists in these films. Marriage, family and fulfillment in work are increasingly meaningless ideas Gabriele Ferzetti and Marcello Mastroianni struggle towards, beset by the demands capital makes on their labour and the new freedoms of the permissive, individualistic and consumerist society they find themselves in. Both directors also find solace in angelic females who redeem their wayward males. The Adventure concludes with Monica Vitti forgiving her lover minutes after finding him in flagrante delicto with a prostitute, losing all credibility in the process. La Dolce Vita is darker – at the end of the film, Mastroianni is sunk so deeply into listless excess that he can no longer hear the words of his guardian angel. Antonioni's follow-up The Night is even more dark: Monica Vitti is crushed and ruined by the nihilism at the heart of modern marriage, and the film ends drifting away from a rape at a golf course. None of these films are perfect, but The Adventure is the most disappointing by quite a measure.

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