La Notte

La Notte ★★★★

Antonioni has created a film of such aching beauty here. The compositions, the wonderful camera work, the meticulous pacing and the glamorous and elegant figures of Marcello Mastroianni, Jeanne Moreau and Monica Vitti help create a film that seeps into your conscience, if not your heart.

I don't have much experience when it comes to Antonioni, having only previously watched Red Desert, which elicited a similar response from me. I get the impression that he is the type of director that agonises over every last frame, it is at once a feast for the eyes and also entirely exhausting to watch, Vitti's character says late on in the films, "You have exhausted me, both of you" and after watching the film, I felt the same about my night with Lidia and Giovanni Pontano.

Whilst this sounds like a criticism, it by and large is not. Sure I felt the meticulous pacing is perhaps too meticulous at times, the characters are hard to invest too, the film creates a feeling of detachment between the two and it is only natural that we as an audience feel that, for that is the whole point. Through the film we come to realise why this is the case and it is brilliantly played out, especially by Jeanne Moreau. She is marvellous as Lidia, you feel the sheer weight on her shoulders, the burden of her feelings, or lack there of.

The film begins with the couple visiting a friend, Tommaso, in hospital. Their relationship is a key part of the film, particularly in the case of Lidia. Tommaso represents the polar opposite to Giovanni, he is a warm man, someone who treats Lidia with respect, whilst Giovanni thinks and talks only of himself.

Giovanni is played with by the indescribably cool, Marcello Mastroianni. His face is practically the poster child of European cinema. Here he is an icily cold, unfaithful, intellectual writer. If he once loved his wife, he no longer shows it, ether being distant with her or flirting with numerous women. At the Gherardini party he meets Valentina (Monica Vitta), there is something about her that inspires past memories regarding his former feelings for Lidia, he is more than a little enamoured with her. And who could blame him? Vitta is a real beauty to behold and just like Mastroianni, a real icon of European cinema, although maybe not quite as revered.

In the mean time, Lidia wanders the party, she, like the camera, observes the high class members dancing and having fun but fails to engage, until she checks on Tomasso by telephone. There she learns of his passing and is deeply upset, however it also briefly relieves some of the pressure from her and as the rains begin to pour she seems to begin to have fun, she also allows a handsome man, Roberto to dance with her. Roberto had previously pursued her during the party only for her to turn away.

The film presents the upper class as emotionally distant people, as if they are unable to grasp what love truly is, instead more interested in status and wealth, an attractive partner makes one look more important than they actually are. The film is cynical about love and the supposed life long vow's we take in marriage, or at least that's how I see it. The emotional detachment is terrifically portrayed, this is done partly because Lidia and Giovanni spend most of the film a part, now if that doesn't represent detachment, then what does?

As I said before the composition and cinematography is sumptuous, when you are dealing with the beauty and elegance of the Italian upper class, you would fully expect to witness such handsomely mounted shots. Gianni Di Venanzo has certainly earned his keep here.

On first watch I admire this film, as I also admire Antonioni, but I do not love it. It is exhausting to watch, a worthwhile experience for sure though. I still look forward to watching more of Antonioni's work in the future.