Ethan’s review published on Letterboxd:
“I no longer have ideas, only memories.”
Michelangelo Antonioni’s La Notte is a poignant formalist masterwork that charts the emotional despondence and interior degradation of a failing loveless marriage, externalised in the prosaic modernist architecture of 1960s Milan.
After visiting their dying friend, Giovanni and Lidia find themselves disillusioned by the artifice of their marriage and the minutiae of mere existence. Giovanni, a writer, is intellectually and emotionally stagnant, unable to write from new ideas and inspirations, only memories. For him, and by extension, Antonioni, originality no longer exists in the modern world; everything worth saying has already been said.
Giovanni's lethargy is juxtaposed with Lidia, who at first glance is more cynical and world-weary that her husband, but it reveals to be the dissatisfaction of the listless and apathetic people they have become. They are no longer in love. Their marriage is only held together by the false pretence of contentment and the refusal to enact radical change despite the inflicting pain and sorrow.
Mirrors appear as a recurring motif through the film, casting Giovanni and Lidia as elusive ghost-like figures, incomplete versions of their former selves. This idea is further reinforced through the surrounding modernist anti-romantic architecture of Milan, which seemingly has the pervading effect of mounding people into the same despondency and indifference.
The despairing world of La Notte is a suffocating existence that condemns modernity to an unavoidable disease of complacency and deceit. The film is an intricate inspection into the rootlessness of the modern man, the indifference of romance, and the enigmatic confines people unconsciously construct around themselves and their partners.