La Notte

La Notte ★★★★★

“I no longer have ideas, only memories.”

Antonioni extracted meaning of abstraction. Solipsistic in his approach, he rendered objects, space, and buildings as extensions of the inner psychological states of his characters. He was a literal symbolist, and his imagery was absolute.

La Notte, the middle child of the alienation trilogy, is a poignant formalist masterwork that charts the emotional despondence and interior degradation of a failing loveless marriage, externalized in the prosaic modernist architecture of 1960s Milan.

After visiting a dying friend in the hospital, Giovanni and Lidia begin to recognize the lovelessness of their marriage and the internal and unspoken collapse of their relationship. They are no longer the people they used to be; they are simply pretending.

Over the course of a single day and night, the couple go on separate journeys trying to remember what brought them together in the first place. Slowly, they register the artifice of their relationship was only held together by time and habit.

Giovanni carries himself passively. And in his passivity, he has become emotionally and intellectually vacant. An author, he is unable to write from new ideas and inspirations, only memories. For Giovanni, originality is no longer possible in the modern world, as anything worth saying has already been said; everything else is merely reflections.

At first glance, Lidia is more cynical and world-weary than her husband. But as we learn more, Lidia reveals to be an intelligent and capable woman burdened by her intellectual subjugation to her husband. In their marriage, her identity had become an extension of his. Her agency lost as a result. Antonioni attributes this dissonance of identity to the alienating effects of modernity and its dissolving effect on humanity’s moral fabric.

Mirrors recur as a motif throughout the film, casting Giovanni and Lidia as elusive ghostly figures like 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.

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