This page as PDF

La Notte

Perpetual Reaction

 

Michelangelo Antonioni may be famous for insisting that he is interested in scrutinizing the surface of the world, but at the same time how many directors manage to create characters quite so ‘deep’, taking into account Deleuze’s useful coinage in Cinema 2-The Time Image, the chronosign – the way time sits in the shot? Certainly we may have in Antonioni’s work no longer traditional drama, but instead “a kind of optical drama lived by the character”, in Claude Ollier’s observation in Cahiers du Cinéma, and this might seem the type of character who passes through space more readily than through time. However this interest in walking through space is not least because time has already passed through the character.

Let us focus here on La Notte and, for the moment, Jeanne Moreau’s walk through Milan after she leaves the bookshop in which her husband is launching his new book. As we first see her walking along the busy Milanese streets she seems both oblivious and aware, as if lost in her own thoughts and at the same time attuned to the nuances of insensitivity. As Lidia walks towards the camera as the camera backtracks along the street, we notice one woman coming into the frame and passing between Lidia and the wall. There is hardly any room, and the only reason the woman can get passed without bumping into Lidia is because, though Lidia may seem lost in her own mind, she nevertheless moves her body in such a way that she accommodates the other woman passing through this narrow space. Here we have a character who manages to be both lost in her thoughts and astutely sensitive to her immediate environment. As we see the fraught look on Lidia’s face as she appears to be anxious over a past thought rather than an immediate action – like the woman brusquely passing by – we might wonder what that past thought concerns. Is it over her husband and how he mingles with his admirers in the bookshop, or is it over her close friend whom she and her husband have shortly before visited in hospital? Then again is it something else; is it that she is a woman approaching her mid-thirties (if we take into account Moreau’s actual age) who appears to be both childless and jobless and how she has been living vicariously through her husband’s move towards relative success, while her husband, through her financial comfort – she comes from a wealthy family – has economically lived through her? Antonioni wonderfully captures Moreau’s move through space, but at the same time hints at her possible thought processes in relation to time past.

Shortly afterwards Lidia crosses a street and passes a worker eating his sandwich. As she does so she glances across but he doesn’t look up, and then as she walks round the corner he stands by, she stops, steps back and half turns, looking directly at the worker. As he looks up she starts to walk away, and as he peers round the corner she again half turns and offers him a smile. The man isn’t especially attractive, is obviously of a different social class, and Lidia seems as readily to be offering herself as an experiment in visibility as reacting to someone on the street. Antonioni once again locates Lidia in time and in space, but with time containing the inexplicable thought even though we are aware of the clarity of an action in space. Obviously we can know for sure that Lidia looks at the man three times, but we cannot know why she does so; and yet the more we understand the character, the more we might understand the action. What Antonioni will not provide is the equivalence of time and space: how an action can be coordinated based on the immediate variables – as we of course get at its most pronounced in an action film where subtle psychology has little to do with anything. In Antonioni’s examination of the surface of the world, psychology has everything to do with it.

Yet this is not at all to reduce Antonioni to a psychological filmmaker. How can we explain this apparent paradox of a filmmaker where psychology has everything to do with it, and yet where he isn’t a psychological director? Maybe it lies in our phrase of “psychology having everything to do with it” – what is this ‘it’ that psychology is serving? Maybe it is the surface of the world, a world that Antonioni’s characters are attentive to while at the same time removed from. It isn’t only that Antonioni is a filmmaker who concentrates on surfaces; it is that these elements are symptomatic of the characters’ place in the world. If we think of the scene where a group of men hang around some waste ground on the outskirts of Milan and watch as two of them get into a fight, we of course accept that this isn’t simply about a fight that Lidia watches; it is also as if it is a fight she seeks out. As she takes a taxi to the outskirts, it is as though each stage of her journey contains also an internal dimension. Guy Debord once proposed that walkers can sometimes gauge a city’s atmosphere by the very indecisiveness with which they explore it. They are receptive “to the sudden change of atmosphere in a street, the sharp division of a city into one of distinct psychological climates; the path of least resistance – wholly unrelated to the unevenness of terrain – to be followed by the casual stroller; the character, attractive or repellent, of certain places”. (Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography) Here Lidia is such a character, looking in some way to take her own emotional temperature she wonders what the city can tell her about both itself and herself. When she witnesses the fight she initially offers a look of pained inexplicability, and turns away from the scrapping bodies and moves as if to leave, touching the corner of a wall as she does so. Then she half turns, and Antonioni cuts to a medium long shot of the fight taking place from the position more or less of where Lidia’s looking. He then cuts to a close up of the tussle itself as the camera is placed at the height of the fighters, and we see in the distance Lidia coming towards the crowd and the two men fighting. This is hardly the sort of conventional fight sequence that Godard so astutely mocks in Band à part, where Anna Karina looks on as the deliberately clichéd helpless female reacting vicariously to each blow. But what is it exactly? It isn’t vicariousness, obviously, but it is about the passivity of reception. It is an event she absorbs, and it is as though she can only react to it because she absorbs it. As she eventually shouts for them to stop, at the same moment she looks at the faces of the on-lookers, imploringly suggesting that they must also share the pain that she feels watching the fight.

Yet of course this not the case; and it brings to mind two Antonioni comments. One is that “I choose intellectual types mainly because they have a greater awareness of what is happening to them,” he says in the DVD notes to La Notte; that they have “a more refined sensibility, a more subtle sense of intuition through which I filter the kind of reality I am interested in expressing.” The other comment, from the Monthly Film Bulletin whilst talking of Identification of a Woman, is “that I always attach a great deal of importance to my female characters because I think I know women better than men….Female psychology seems so much better able to filter reality and condense.” How do these two comments help us when thinking of this scene? Antonioni here talks of the filtering of reality; yet few would take the scene with the men fighting and Lidia interrupting the fight as realistic, and many might argue that her refined sensibility is closer to neurosis than a clear-eyed view of the situation. Antonioni can only be talking less of realism than a specific type of reality he searches out. This is the reality not of action but reaction, so that if Godard in Bande a part mocks the female passivity as Karina watches the fight, Antonioni interrogates that passivity and turns it into absorption. After many years of reaction shot consciences to numerous scenes of action in the cinema, Antonioni, requiring sensitive, preferably female characters, searches out what might be in that reaction shot. Indeed we might say absolutely central to Antonioni’s body of work is less the capacity to act than react; less to move through space than to acknowledge it, notice it and be influenced by it as space.

Vital to Antonioni’s aesthetic is of course the way that the human can be misplaced by the director’s urban and architectural interests. At the beginning of La Notte we aren’t introduced first to the leading characters, but instead to the city. As Antonioni establishes a shot of a Milanese street and then tilts up to a building that we do not enter, and then offers us shots of another building altogether, before offering us the view from a lift that shows the Milanese skyline, we are hardly anthropocentrically located. Yet by the same token, as the film follows the marital difficulties of Lidia and her husband, we are removed from character only to be more deeply located as the film continues. These are spaces that may mean little to us initially as no character is presented as passing through these buildings nor observing them, but this is part of Antonioni’s radical approach to being. How does one find the complexity of being, the weight and texture of being, if not by finding a new form?

This isn’t about formalism, per se: it is about utilising form to find new ways to talk about character. Antonioni says of neo-realism in the La Notte notes that “It really wasn’t necessary to know the protagonist’s inner thoughts, his personality, of the intimate relationship between him and his wife; all this could very well be ignored.” In Antonioni’s work the character’s inner thoughts become fundamental. Thus when for example David Bordwell insists, in Figures Traced in Light, “it is hard for us today to realize how revolutionary a figure he seemed in the 1960s”, and when Bordwell mentions Harold Bloom’s idea of the anxiety of influence and how Antonioni was a “strong precursor”, this says a little about Antonioni’s genealogical, historical significance, but not very much about what Antonioni’s problematic happens to be. Certainly Antonioni’s form was new – or rather part of a de-dramatized aesthetic that could be seen in Ozu, in Rossellini’s Voyage to Italy, in Dreyer’s Ordet – but what is most important is to comprehend not so much its newness as its problem. Dreyer, Ozu and Rossellini were not especially filmmakers of the future; they were at least as concerned with the past. Dreyer’s Ordet is about religious feeling, Ozu’s work with post-war Japan and the significance of family values, and Rossellini’s Voyage to Italy the presence of slow time on characters in Southern Italy who were used to a faster pace of living in London. What all the films’ characters were confronting were aspects of the past as much as the problems of the present. To bracket Ozu, Dreyer and Rossellini as filmmakers modernising the image is useful, but only tells half the story.

Antonioni is nothing if not a modern filmmaker, and so any formal enquiry maybe needs to work in conjunction with what Antonioni is saying about the world. This isn’t by any means to suggest he has a message (asked about the meaning of his work he invokes Pirandello, who, when asked, replied: “how should I know? I’m the author”). But he does possess a mode of enquiry, a way of looking at the world that suggests characterisational depth against architectural surfaces. He doesn’t so much de-anthropomorphise as re-anthropomorphise as he wants to show less characters acting in an environment than reacting to it.

Now if the characters did not have a ‘chronical’ dimension then their response to the world might be of less interest or, as we’ll explain, interest us in a different way. We would have characters without pasts responding to images of the future. What is vital to La notte is how Lidia has a past and how Antonioni chooses to reveal it to us through the present. Certainly there are Antonioni films where the ‘chronical’would seem less pertinent like in Blow Up but, even through the apparently shallow character of Thomas, Antonioni was decidedly intrigued by Thomas’s existence. As Alexander Walker explores in Hollywood, England, the director became fascinated by the life and lifestyle of fashion photographers. Antonioni asked “Are fashion photographers requested to stress the sexual angle or merely to concentrate on the clothes? Private life. Habits. Hobbies. Do they drink? How do they spend their days? Evenings? Week-end…What is broadly speaking the social background? Do they eat at home, in their studio, or in restaurants?” Thus the past of the character as well as the world in which they are placed matters even in Blow Up. The chronical becomes more sub-textual, but hardly disappears.

However, what gives a character a past of course isn’t only, nor especially, a back story they possess and that they will occasionally deliver, but much more reactions than actions. If we have David Mamet’s oft-quoted assumption in On Directing that character is perpetual action, we could argue that this is character without time sitting inside them, and Antonioni is more interested in character as perpetual reaction. The characters’ inability to act but instead to react to events suggests time in the character rather than time in the world. As Milan Kundera proposes in The Art of the Novel, “if the self is not to be grasped through action, then where and how are we to grasp it? So the time came when the novel in its quest for the self, was forced to turn away from the visible world of action and examine instead the invisible interior life.” It is as if Antonioni was asking similar questions of film, and, given the nature of the form, found it not so much in non-action as reaction, yet not of course the reaction of the reaction shot we mentioned in relation to its conventional usage that Godard mocks. If for example the most conventional way of dealing with a fight would be to try and categorically stop it, or helplessly to react to it, what approach would generate a chronical response to it? The answer would be exactly what Antonioni searches out in the scene quoted above where Lidia gets caught between action, non-action and reaction. However what finally matters is the nature of her reaction: it is in her inexplicable response that we understand something of her subjectivity.

Thus central to Antonioni’s work is a ‘chronical hermeneutics’ that absorbs a spatial hermeneutic. It is certainly the case that Pascal Bonitzer in Cahiers du Cinéma has talked of Antonioni’s great project being the empty shot: “the object of Antonioni’s cinema is to reach the non-figurative through an adventure whose end is the eclipse of the face, the obliteration of characters.” Yet while we might agree with the first point on the facial eclipse, that doesn’t mean we have to agree with the second: character obliteration. What we’re proposing here is that Antonioni simultaneously goes beyond the face and deeper into the character. Character is no longer a given in the Mametian sense of action, but a non-given in the ways in which the characters react.

Let’s remember that Lidia doesn’t initially react to the fight, and let us also throw in another couple of similar examples from Antonioni’s work – from The Eclipse and from Zabriskie Point. In La Notte, Lidia almost acts her reaction: she responds first of all to her reaction. As she decides what to do we see her absorbing the action happening nearby before she decides whether she should do anything about it. This gives her reaction singularity as she makes her reaction her own by acting within her reaction – for example the moment where she touches the wall and looks like she’s turning the corner before going back to the scene of the fight. This is similar to Monica Vitti’s character acting her reaction in The Eclipse. In a scene where Alain Delon invites her along as they fish his stolen car out of the water, Delon informs her that they didn’t only find the car – they found a body also. Where before as she sauntered along the road she was seemingly indifferent to the damage done to Delon’s vehicle, when he informs her there was a corpse found as well, her body language changes as the enthusiasm she shows in wanting to see the car, becomes the hesitation of at the same time seeing a body. As Delon informs her of the body in one shot; the film cuts to Vitti in the next turning round once again to face Delon. Central to the rest of the scene as Vitti and Delon go for a walk nearby, is how little Delon reacts to the idea of a dead body and how much Vitti happens to do so. As Delon talks of the car’s dents, so Vitti wonders whether this is all that concerns him.

Partly what makes the scene such a great moment of failed communication isn’t merely that Delon is pragmatic – thinking more of his ruined car than the dead thief – and Vitti empathic – thinking more of the dead body than the ruined vehicle – but what comes out of this. Shortly after when Delon talks about how much time this has cost him, Vitti asks if she is wasting his time also, and he replies not at all, that he had to be there anyway. This is obviously not the response Vitti is looking for, and yet for Delon it passes for reassurance: he explains that she isn’t wasting his time. As they wander round a park, Vitti suspects she’s been an idiot, and really what she means by saying this is surely that she lives her life not as a purposeful, pragmatic being, but as a hopeful, empathic one. If Delon lives in a world of action, where he promptly explains what he might do with the car; Vitti functions in the world of reaction, of in this instance musing over the body of a dead person she never knew. Is she an idiot because she is following Delon around: as he wastes time, is she trying to find it, find a purpose within this wasted time? Again the primary aspect is reaction, and Antonioni thus doesn’t so much empty the frame, no matter the famous closing shots of The Eclipse, as create cinematic spaces in which character can react rather than act.

If we think of Zabriskie Point we might recall the scene where Daria Halpern’s character goes to her boss’s house in the desert, and how when she goes downstairs we see her acting her reactions to the house. Watch how she touches one door handle, then opens a door to another room before closing it again, and then goes over to the window and pushes her hands against it. In each instance, in La Notte, in The Eclipse and in Zabriskie Point, the character isn’t obliterated even if the face is no longer at the centre of the reaction.

Now obviously how much time a character contains within them in relation to their reactions to the world varies from one character to another. Sometimes it would seem a reaction suggests a short period of time; on other occasions perhaps many years. When Lidia walks along the streets of Milan in La notte she could be accessing years of her marriage; when Vitti’s character walks with Delon perhaps she might recall the relationship with her long term ex that has recently come to an end, and the ending of which we have witnessed at the beginning of the film. In Zabriskie Point there may be no more than the short period of time Halpern has known Peter Frechette’s student revolutionary, and that the house takes on a different complexion than it would have possessed only days before. This is no more than to say it isn’t always the case that Antonioni wants to suggest the texture of an emotion that must always be well established in the body; it is enough sometimes simply to register the gap between perception and action to bring out the singularity of reaction.

In a passage on L’Avventura, Stanley Cavell in The World Viewed mentions a gesture Vitti’s character makes. In the final shot of the film “the woman puts her hand on the man’s shoulder not because she forgives his betrayal, or even his inability to offer tears and beg forgiveness, but because she accepts that there is nothing to forgive, to forgo, no new place to be won on the other side of this moment.” This is a fine description that sums up many Antonioni characters. There are rarely, in Antonioni’s films, the sort of relationship spats that we find so often in American play adaptations like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof or Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. In such plays the characters can lose themselves in the moment, and work up righteous indignation that doesn’t ignore the past but drags it into the present for the present moment’s needs. This is partly what gives so much energy to the conflicts between Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor in Richard Brooks’ adaptation, and Richard Burton and Taylor in the latter (and also makes Taylor one of the great actresses of the spat). They can righteously lose themselves in the moment. No matter how much past they themselves have accumulated, it can all go into the present. But when Paul Coates in The Story of the Lost Reflection so astutely suggested that Antonioni’s characters move like “the drowned under water”, he was at the same time conveying this chronical lag the characters possess. When Vitti puts her hand on the man’s shoulder at the end of L’Avventura it resembles Vitti’s comment in The Eclipse that she is an idiot. In both instances, it is as though any righteousness immediately rebounds back onto their own existence: after all, in L’Avventura, Vitti’s embarked on an affair with a man whose lover has gone missing, and Vitti was also her friend, while in The Eclipse she has recently left her own partner of many years. There are lucid realizations here as time sits in the body; rather than the Taylor-like energy force that can sweep up time past and ignore its complications and implications for the purposefulness of the present moment. If Vitti is like “the drowned under water”, Taylor is a fireball crossing the sky.

This is to say that Antonioni wants from his main characters a stronger sense of purposelessness than purposefulness, no matter if time sits deeply or shallowly within the character. If it doesn’t sit in a character at all there is often a sense of potential menace, and this is partly why the male characters looking on at Vitti in the small town in L’Avventura are so intimidating, or for that matter the men fighting in La notte. When Cavell mentions “the crowd of brute men” in L’Avventura he adds “they are not haunted, we know nothing is present within them”. They are the opposite of the characters who fascinate Antonioni. What the director so often shows are characters possessed of past thoughts in relation to present actions, but where the past thought cannot lead to release, but nevertheless invades, floods, the action. This is a type of action that still causes problems, and we might be reminded of Ingmar Bergman’s belief that Antonioni doesn’t do very much with his actors. “He never does, he never comes into contact with his actors,” he says in Bergman Interviews. “They don’t know what he wants, and he doesn’t know how to talk to them.” This makes sense from Bergman’s point of view, but not from Antonioni’s. After all if we accept Bonitzer is right about eclipsing the face, Bergman himself claims “for me, film is face”. While in Bergman’s characters thoughts rise to the surface and come through precise, cutting dialogue; in Antonioni’s work it permeates instead the entire body – trapped as thought it is released as behavioural permutation.

To explore this idea of behavioural permutation let us take another scene from La notte where Monica Vitti’s character Valentina and Lidia talk, and are then joined by Giovanni, Lidia’s husband, played by Marcello Mastroianni. As we see them in a two shot, with Valentina sitting slightly behind Lidia, Valentina talks while Lidia barely cares to listen, and certainly initially in her body language shows no signs of interest. As Valentina says she has plenty of vices but is too listless to practise them, she pours Lidia a whisky and Lidia says she may have found her vice: “it’s warm and it’s good.” After this she gets up and crosses the room so that she’s sitting at a greater distance from Valentina, but can at least look directly at her. Lidia then asks Valentina how old she is and Valentina replies that she is twenty two and “many, many months” as she herself gets up and comes closer to Lidia, yet sits on the bed with her back now to the older woman. As Lidia insists that “you don’t know what it is to feel the weight of years, in vain”, Giovanni enters what had been a two shot. Is he not central to the vain weight of years, and as he stands at the door before entering, how many guilty years does his body language now contain? At the end of the scene, as Lidia and Giovannni leave, Valentina says, “you’ve exhausted me, both of you”. Has she been subject to the weight of reaction?

Now Valentina might be twenty two and many, many months, yet the impression she gives, for all her apparent ennui, is of a woman still with a future ahead of her. As she talks of going away for a while, she seems finally bored rather than despairing. It is as though her many, many months are the accumulation of casual indecision, not Lidia’s vain weight. Antonioni shows the mark of time upon her, but Lidia makes clear that her marks are much deeper. So while characters both speak despairingly, we might wonder which of the characters carry this weight in their body, and it is clear that Lidia does so much more completely than Valentina. When Lidia says at one moment that she “feels like dying”, we can see in her flopped posture on the chair the exhaustion of being alive; while when Valentina says they’ve both exhausted her, she may lean her body against a patio window frame, but her posture seems in one piece. This is another failed encounter on the journey of life; not quite a nail in the coffin of existence.

Yet what is central to both Lidia and Valentina, and Giovanni also, is that they contain their actions and their reactions within themselves rather than kinetically discharging them. When Lidia offers her comment about the vain weight of years, she doesn’t expect a reaction from Valentina, just as Valentina doesn’t expect a reaction from Lidia and Giovanni when she says they have exhausted her. This is why Cavell is so right in his observations on L’Avventura: there is not apportioning of blame and the subsequent kinetic response. It is more that each statement made, due to the time within each character, or simply the indecisiveness towards an action, the recognition of their own limitations, and the bodily figurations they allow themselves as they often avoid vis-à-vis confrontations and position themselves at an often oblique angle to their interlocutor, helps explain this general refusal of the kinetic in Antonioni’s work. If it is the case that Bergman is a great director of the close up and that Antonioni is interested in the body in space, by the same token Bergman is a great director of the close up vis-à-vis another. Bergman’s work is full of conflict not least due to the bodily configurations that allow for vis-a-vis confrontations. Whether it be the shot-counter-shot exchange between the actress and the nurse in Persona, or the tight two shot with Josephson standing behind Liv Ullmann in Cries and Whispers as he details the flaws of character evident on the face, Bergman often encloses characters in spaces that lead to tension; Antonioni, much more interested in the medium long shot, allows this tension constantly to be contained by the openness of space. The reaction isn’t forcefully charged but constantly diluted.

What we are trying to do here then is rescue Antonioni from the formalist preoccupations of albeit very different writers like Bonitzer and Bordwell, and say that Antonioni is as much a character director as he is anything else. What is interesting is not in Bonitzer’s words that “since L’Avventura, Antonioni’s great project has been the empty shot, the de-peopled shot”, nor in Bordwell’s that “the difficulty for newcomers was that Antonioni had apparently pushed the de-dramatized long take as far as one could”, but instead how much texture he manages to give to character. Hence where Bonitzer might talk about the absence of Delon and Vitti at the end of The Eclipse, or Nicholson’s off screen death in the penultimate shot of The Passenger, this seems less the effacing of character than an aporia that we fill in ourselves. Why didn’t they turn up for their arranged meeting; what exactly has happened to Nicholson’s character out of frame? What happens is that our imaginary is set to work rather as Sartre would describe it in The Psychology of the Imagination, when he says that he doesn’t “make a distinction between Peter as an image and the Peter of flesh and bone. There is but one Peter and he is precisely the one who is not there; not to be there is his essential quality.” The absence of the lovers at the end the The Eclipse, the off-screen presence of Locke near the end of The Passenger, is also central to their essential quality. If so often in Antonioni’s work we have proposed that characters possess pasts that aren’t always readily accessible as we notice a gap opening up between action and reaction, so we can add that Antonioni extends this empathic reach by leaving us wondering not only about inexplicable on-screen actions, but off-screen motivations too. Why don’t the characters turn up for their planned rendezvous in The Eclipse; what exactly is happening to Locke off screen in The Passenger? Antonioni doesn’t obliterate character so much as make our response to character ever more complex.

This is why early in the piece we mentioned Antonioni’s work having everything to do with psychology and yet not at all reducing him to a psychological filmmaker. What he does is extend characterisation far beyond the horizons of the psychological and into the realm of the behavioural. Indeed one critic quoted by Bordwell believed that after thirty years of silent cinema and thirty years of sound film, we now had “a cinema of behaviour”. We might say this is a form of cinema that reverses the hierarchy of psychology secreting body language, by making body language secrete psychology. If so often in films a character acts to reveal their categorical psychology – their motivations, their drives, their rationales – then in Antonioni characters reveal less their psychology than offer their behaviour. When Halpern acts indecisively in Zabriskie Point it is exactly that: she is not illustrating indecision but acting indecisively, and this may be why Antonioni so often insists that he doesn’t allow “the actor to do anything on his own.” As he says in the La Notte notes, “I give him precise instructions as to what he is supposed to do.” If this were reversed, if the actor expressed his character, rather than Antonioni observing it, that hierarchical reversal might be lost. The mystery of being would be replaced by the assertiveness of psychology. Roland Barthes reckoned that, in Sam Rohdie’s words, “Antonioni’s interests are always with what is unstable and at the ‘interstices’ of things,” and adds, in Antonioni, that “Antonioni’s fascination with surfaces is primarily a fascination with relations between them, along their extension, and with their power to engulf”. We could add that this is what reveals Antonioni’s fascination for character. Character interests the director too much for it to act in situations, for that would be to reveal more about the action than the character, and be absolutely consistent with Mamet’s belief that character ought to be action, where we are more interested in the Kunderan formulation of being.

Hence the interstices are where the character can exist in the complexity of his or her behaviour, and not the dead centre of their psychology. Yet as we’ve explored this doesn’t at all make a character less complex because they lack psychology; it make the character more complex: as the psychology isn’t given, so almost anything can affect them. When Barthes notices that things quiver and risk losing their identity, this is pretty much a summation of many of Antonioni’s characters, consistent with what Antonioni would want when talking of a refined sensibility, and also when he says he is interested in a “cinema which is not so much concerned with externals as it is with those forces that move us to act in a certain way and not in another.” As he adds in the La Notte notes, “because the important thing is this: that our acts, our gestures, our words are nothing more than the consequences of our own personal situation in relation to the world around us.” Antonioni, through reactions rather than actions, through behaviour rather than ready psychology, and of course through decelerating the expected pace of cinema, marvellously captures the problematic of our situation in the world around us.

 

©Tony McKibbin