La Notte (1961) by Michelangelo Antonioni

Antonioni’s films are a big inspiration of mine. Not only for their cinematography, but also for their subject matter: feelings and relationships. La Notte is one of my all time classic favorite. It has inspired me to write many poems and create moody and abstract photographs. I am fascinated by the way it’s made, but also by its dialogs. Here I will share some of the shots that I really love and why.

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The line of action is on the side of the frame, where the subjects stand with their back at the camera. Those wide-shots place the characters harmonically either in an urban environment or in the countryside. Simple, but breathtaking. Their figures are carried away into the vastness of the world they live in.

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When Antonioni places his characters in medium shots, he never does it randomly. Every shot is composed with care where everything is in deep focus; foreground, middle ground and background are all sharp in focus, so that we see the reactions of every character in the shot.

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This deep contrast focuses on the intense emotional state of the character at that moment (the night has ended and she feels the vanity of a love affair). She is tired and drained. Her figure is prominently in the center of the frame and you are tempted to imagine how her thoughts drift away from her own self.

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Characters who immerse themselves in their emotions. Characters whose life is weighting them down and suffocate them. They don’t communicate with each other anymore. Something precious is lost. These are people who are searching to feel the fascination of falling in love one more time. They want to feel loved and appreciated. Their need to remember love leads them towards empty and futile relationships. These are people whose actions hurt and punish each other. But these actions remind them what love really is about.

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Alone and lost in the streets of Milan, the woman tries impatiently to feel something while walking in the streets. She is lonely and lost. She walks and walks, in an attempt to remember if she has any feelings left for her husband. Her walk is an elegy of loneliness. Her figure next to those vast buildings seems so small, like the love in her heart. She appears behind a corner and then slowly disappears. The slow pace of her movement reminds me of the slow decline in our emotional capacity; feelings fade away and we lose ourselves into the absence of love. There is nothing left.

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Her hand is tearing apart pieces of a wall. She is exploring her own empty relationship; there is nothing between her and her husband, only ruins. Antonioni puts his character next to big, emotionless city buildings, creating an inescapable parallelism; she is empty and dead inside, just like those buildings are. Her movement between them dehumanizes her own existence. Those buildings seem to force her into solitude, but also remind her that she won’t compromise her own life in a marriage that is long dead.

Poetic and honest, mesmerizing and illuminating, La Notte is a magnificent testimony of pure cinematic art.

(The images are screenshots of mine, but also taken from the web.)

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