Il Grido

I must say that this black and white film, “Il Grido”(The Outcry) released in 1957 didn’t touch me as much as the rest did, but still, it certainly sparked some thoughts in me, particularly about alienation, the impossibility of relationships, and the breakdown of communication and how that can lead, even the most physically strong men to the path of self destruction and no return.

The story is quite simple. It’s about this worker from a sugar refinery, Aldo (played by American actor Steve Cochran) who was distraught after failing to get his long-time lover to marry him after she found out that her husband had died in Australia. Faced with the pain of rejection, he brought his young daughter, Rosina, to the Po Valley, and attempts to re-establish connections with former lovers and random women. However, he quickly finds that all these meaning-searching sojourns are fruitless because they can never replace the loneliness and emptiness in his heart. And when he finds out that Irma, the one who had rejected him, had married and had a son, he committed suicide from the top of a refinery, in spite of Irma’s cries below.

The shots were very beautifully composed, as they linger silently over Aldo and the silence served as a projection of his loss of direction and sense of meaning. The backdrop of the political upheaval from objections to the rapid industralisation also served as excellent padding to the emotional confusion that Aldo feels in his heart. It’s all very sensitively done, of course. And we feel a lot of pity for this man, who slowly loses control over his own life, his daughter and his destiny.

When we lose that rallying point in our life, around which we often invest a lot of time, emotion and energy, we are thrown into a state of disbalance and chaos. The alienation that we feel is not only within, but without as well, as the familiar landscape quickly loses its familiarity and becomes replaced by the forces of industralisation, our sense of identity gets more unhinged and uprooted, and we no longer know who we are and what we’re living for. This is a powerful film that explores all these challenging themes.

As Lorenzo Codelli says, one needs to have studied philosophy, economics, politics and other disciplines before one can fully appreciate the aesthetic and poetic beauty of Antonioni’s films. And this is only the beginning of his amazing talent and vision. The impossibly wonderful trilogy of “L’Avventura”, “La Notte” and “L’Eclisse” is testimony to that.

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