Program of films by Michelangelo Antonioni

Michelangelo Antonioni – the leading figure of world film

Antonioni is very much connected to neo-realism – he actually developed
its poetics and rhetoric, although not in the social context, but rather in the
area of psychology.

From a circle of great film authors, whose important place in history of film no
one questions, two are still alive: Bergman and Antonioni. The older one,
Antonioni, was born in 1912 in Ferrara. He was a film critic, for a short period
of time a student at the famous film school, Centro sperimentale di
, and in 1942 he had his first contacts with film as the
assistant director (both to Rossellini and Carne). In 1943 he began his
independent work on the documentary, Ljudi s Poa. His screenwriting
skills were confirmed in Giuseppe de Santis’s neo-realist Tragičnom lovu
(1948). Finally, after six documentaries, he made his debut with a feature film
Kronika jedne ljubavi (1950). So began his career consisting of more than
15 films, including parts of omnibuses.

These summarized facts are starting points that will never be completely lost;
some of them will become stronger, and some will lead astray, but none of them
will disappear. His collaboration in the pro-regime magazine Cinema and
assisting to the director Rossellini in his pro-regime film, and later in the
explicitly anti-fascist Tragičnom lovu, led to the conclusion that he was
prone to political themes. However, in his opus that is only indirect, and in
case it is more direct, as in the film Zabriskie Point, Antonioni lapses
into, for him, untypical directing stylizations and overly unambiguous
conclusions. When we mention documentaries and his collaboration with de Santis,
some would definitely connect him with neo-realism. But, in that case Carne’s
legacy would be forgotten, because, simply, already in his first film, Antonioni
was more interested in the state of mind and ways of human thoughts than in the
drama of poverty. In De Sica’s Kradljivcima bicikla (1948) there is far
too much talk about a bicycle than about a man, says Antonioni, incorrectly and
insensitively. Namely, Antonioni started to work in film at the end of
neo-realism, and he and Fellini, as well as the older Rossellini, foresaw new
difficulties which influenced the emergence of the so-called renewed neo-realism
or the neo-realism of the soul. That time was facing the increasing general
spiritual, moral and emotional emptiness, and while De Sica’s hero desperately
and unsuccessfully looked for the stolen bike, Antonioni’s heroes are looking
for something lost in themselves or something that is not even there; they only
suspect that something like it should exist. And in that search they find a
medium, an other person, with whose help they reason out their own relationship
to the surroundings, and question their being (his short-term “chief”, Carne,
talked about the same thing). And more or less, that is the starting point of
all Antonioni’s films. That is the story of those films, and it never has a
happy end. There is none, because Antonioni’s hero has never sorted himself out,
and so his emotions are a pile of experiences that cannot find a firm ground on
the “outside” – because they don’t have it on the “inside”. In that sense, he is
close to Bergman or more precisely to the journeys of a man towards his heart of
darkness. And in the end of a film, his hero or heroine has to ask
himself/herself what he/she is, and most often resigns. Even so, this individual
has at least finally realized something – either good or bad for itself.

In that sense, it is not unusual that the “mature” Antonioni started with the
adaptation of Pavese (Prijateljice) and then in Krik found his
constant and distinguished visual symbolism, that he used to characterize the
drama of his heroes – empty spaces, totals, later also in cinemascope, with a
wandering lonely man. It evolved gradually from Avanture, Noći,
until Crvene pustinje (the famous tetralogy with Monica
Vitti). Then he changed the ambience and the characters (Blow Up,
Zabriskie Point
), and finally, after none of his heroes had found inner
peace, tried to, in Pirandello’s manner, change the identity in order to start
from scratch. That, of course, turned out to be impossible, and he has just
burdened himself with yet another dubious identity – as in his film Profesija
And now it seems as if there is nothing left from neo-realism.
Still, Antonioni was very much connected to it – he actually developed its
poetics and rhetoric, although not in the social context, but rather in the area
of psychology. In his scenes he is a realist not only because he gave up on an
eventful plot, but also because he is a realist of a psychological film;
subjective scenes are a rarity and there are no histrionic clichés about the
state of mind. He talks about them showing a big picture and in the context of
the whole film. That, and not only his themes, originally places him into film
modernism. (Ante Peterlić)