Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni (Italy, 1964, 120 min.). 35mm. Italian with English subtitles.
In an Italian factory town, wife and mother Giuliana (Monica Vitti) struggles to maintain her grip on reality amid growing anxiety and existential doubts. Her aloof husband is little help, but a handsome stranger shows her warmth and compassion, tempting her to begin an affair. Antonioni uses vast, colorless skies to echo Giuliana’s feeling of emptiness throughout the film, while the smokestacks of her husband’s factory churn out an endless supply of pale smog that visually isolates the characters from one another. While many have interpreted the film as a critique of the alienating effects of industrialization, Antonioni has stated that modern industrial society has its own kind of beauty, which Giuliana is unable to see:
My intention … was to translate the poetry of the world, in which even factories can be beautiful. The line and curves of factories and their chimneys can be more beautiful than the outline of trees, which we are already too accustomed to seeing. It is a rich world, alive and serviceable … There are people who do adapt, and others who can’t manage, perhaps because they are too tied to ways of life that are by now out-of-date.
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