Of the three films I caught in my Antonioni marathon on Saturday, I liked this the best. Maybe because it has a more ‘modern’ feel to it, maybe because it’s set in the city and features, at length, the hyperactive stock exchange, and I bet a lot of it has to do with casting Alain Delon and Monica Vitti (Antonioni’s muse, as she features in many of his films). I think the fact that Vittoria, the slightly neurotic woman in search of something, drifts in and out of a relationship with Piero (brash, young stockbroker played by Delon) and it all started at the stock exchange (symbol of capitalism and that unhealthy obsession with wealth hoarding) just highlights the idea of alienation very well. We gradually lose that sensitivity to our emotions, and I think the film is an extended anthem of searching and trying to grasp meaning, as well as a portrait of Vittoria as a symbol of that fear to be close to someone, perhaps very simply based on the extended fear that they might leave us someday anyway.
The cinematography is excellent, and the Director of Photography, Gianni di Venanzo, created each shot and each scene with beautiful composition and techniques. I love the way the shots linger on Vittoria (Monica Vitti is very very gorgeous) and her impassioned expression speaks volumes about the inner tumult she was possibly feeling, and her fear of being committed to another man is clear through her reluctance for intimacy at first with Piero. I like the kissing-on-the-window-pane scene, not only because it’s so cute, but also because it’s an extended metaphor on the fear to be truly in touch with the people we love or want to love. It’s always safer to maintain some distance and allow ourselves to see but not truly see, lest we end up being the ones hurt.
I also liked the part where Vittoria mused,”Why are we asking so many questions? If two people want to fall in love, they shouldn’t understand each other”. This is relational philosophy at its most poignant moment. I think love makes people stupid, not in the sense that our IQ is lowered, but we lose our sensitivity to a lot of bigger things and we lose that ability to create meaning and philosophise about our Human Condition, and that’s why falling in love takes away so much from one, but of course, it gives one other pleasures too, such as being loved. That said, the truth remains that human relationships are very fragile, and it is very clear that Piero and Vittoria never really understood each other and there’s clearly a breakdown in communication between them, as the woman seeks love out of emptiness and the man never really understood the meaning of what’s happening between them. It’s all a bit sad, really.
The ending must not be forgotten. The seven-minute long shot is composed mainly of lingering moments over the landscape and focusing sometimes on details. It may seem like a strange ending, but it underscores that silent, desperate undertone that very much defined their brief romance. They probably never did meet again at the agreed upon time, but then again, maybe that’s for the better for both of them. Incidentally, this arrangement of failing to meet and the extended empty shots was said to have inspired Linklater’s “Before Sunrise” (1995), one of my all-time favourites.
“L’Eclisse” is also one of Antonioni’s personal favourites, and for that alone, I feel like watching it again next Sunday, just to complete my trilogy at one shot.