25.1.15

The Eclipse (L'Eclisse)

Antonioni may be inspired by Camus, but the beginning of this film feels more like Beckett. There is a sense of entropy and the absurd in the couple's dialogue and actions that is straight out of Beckett's Endgame.

This is the most accessible part of the trilogy partly due to the straight-talking Alain Delon. A modern man unlike the void that makes Monica Vitti so batty.

Antonioni is rightly considered to be an original stylist rather than an original thinker. The film connects the crisis at the Bourse with the crises of young lovers. But did Italy's boom and the commercialised society it created transform values to the extent where people become alien beings unable to relate to each other? Antonioni posits that our sociability has been eroded, and the only gravitational force still active between human bodies is lust. The end of the film presents harbingers of apocalypse - war and nuclear holocaust. Prophesies that have yet to be fulfilled.

But it's the visual and narrative innovation that has been lauded the most. The title Eclipse suggests spinning bodies only occasionally forming a relationship with each other, and then only from the perspective of a third body - the watching audience. I'd be lying if I said I noticed it, but apparently the film is shot so that compositions at the beginning and end aim to create heavy contrasts between black and white, while the middle is brighter. The final transition seems to nod to this - a dark street cuts to a bright streetlight saturating the screen.

But the more effective effect (bleh) is the the one the film is famous for. We see two lovers arranging to meet. Then we see the familiar street corner - the scene of their appointment. We get shots of the surrounding buildings and people moving through the location. But the actors we have become familiar with are nowhere to be seen, and yet we keep looking for them to turn up. That upending of expectations at the audience's expense feels cruel (Antonioni shines a light in our faces instead), if it wasn't for the air of detachment permeating the entire film. Antonioni shoots people as if he were an extraterrestrial tourist wandering around in 1960s Italy, and that's why his films are worth watching. 

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