La Notte (The Night) made in 1961 is the second, and regarded by many as the best, film in Michelangelo Antonioni’s decadence trilogy. The film discusses similar themes of: alienation, love and tragedy to the other films in the trilogy: L’Avventura and L’Ecclisse, and is notable for Gianni Di Venanzo’s stunning monochromatic cinematography.
The film contains a remarkable sequence featuring Jeanne Moreau as Lidia wandering the streets of Milan. We see: decaying buildings from the past, rockets pointing to modernity in the future, linked by the disruptive brutalist style architecture of the present. Relevantly, Lidia wanders these streets after learning of her dear friend Tommaso’s terminal fate, his decaying past and disrupted present.
We can see the decaying buildings from the past above.
Lidia also encounters people clinging on to and memories of this past.
Walking among the buildings of the present. I appreciate I went a little overboard here, but being selective is difficult with so many beautiful buildings! We wonder if Lidia is reflecting if her privileged status is threatened among all of this upheaval.
Lidia pauses to view a jet plane, or perhaps a small-scale rocket, out of shot. Another footprint of modernity which clearly reminds of the famous train scene in Satyajit Ray’s Panther Panchali.
We find Lidia clearly now in the future, in the space age. Enthusiasts launch their rockets into the heavens in tribute to the rival superpowers’ space programmes currently enthralling the world.
There’s more to the film than brutalist design. As mentioned, the film discusses similar themes of: alienation, love and tragedy to the other films in the trilogy. In the opening scene at the start of the single day covered by the film, Lidia visits her terminally ill friend Tommaso perfectly played by Bernhard Wicki. As many of us may, Tommaso mourns his length of time and inability to turn back time for second chances.
We wonder if one of these second chances is Lidia who, unlike her husband Giovanni (played by Marcello Mastroianni) who is also best friends with Tommaso, is unable to contain her emotions at his moribund situation.
A running story is the contrast between Lidia and Giovanni’s views on their marital relationship, the latter being more open to entertaining relationships with others.
In this visceral and almost surrealistic scene we find Giovanni unable to fight the advances of a woman suffering from a psychological condition. It’s easy to understand how this scene fell into the censor’s in-tray.
I’m slightly worried it’s taken me this long to discuss another star of the film (and the star of the trilogy), Michelangelo Antonioni’s muse Monica Vitti. Vitti’s performance as temporary centre of Giovanni’s attentions is as remarkable and integral as ever, and these frame grabs highlight her capture by Gianni Di Venanzo’s stunning monochromatic cinematography.
Di Venanzo uses a visceral palette of black and white with few shades (which also describes other aspects of the film) that is a joy to behold and is just as remarkable as Carlo Di Palma’s famous colour cinematography for Antonioni’s later film Red Desert’s industrial landscape.
Our two main characters are now in the morning after their hedonistic and exploratory long night out. After reaching the conclusion she no longer loves Giovanni matching his disaffection for her she reads him a poem extracted above.
A happy end, maybe with love rekindled.
Reference: La Notte – Wikipedia