Italy / France
Director: Michelangelo Antonioni
Production Co.: Cino Del Duca / Produzioni Cinematagrafiche / Lyre
Producer: Amato Pennasilico
Screenplay: Michelangelo Antonioni, Elio Bartolini & Tonino Guerra, from a story by Antonioni
Cinematography: Aldo Scavarda
Editor: Eraldo da Roma
Music: Giovanni Fusco
Art Director: Piero Poletto
Costumes: Adriana Berselli
Sound: Claudio Maielli
Sandro: Gabriele Ferzetti
Claudia: Monica Vitti
Anna: Lea Massari
Giulia: Dominique Blanchar
Corrado: James Addams
Raimondo: Lelio Luttazi
Patrizia: Esmerelda Ruspoli
Gloria Perkins: Dorothy De Poliolo
Goffredo: Giovanni Petrucci
Old Man on the island: Joe
Black & White
Italian, with English subtitles
L'Avventura remains one of the most significant post-war films. It is not necessarily Antonioni's finest work; it was certainly not a bolt from the blue - as, in their separate ways, were Breathless and Hiroshima, mon amour, both released at about the same time. Antonioni was continuing along a path well mapped in his films of the 50s, though hitherto pursued in relative obscurity. Historically, part of the importance of L'Avventura is in opening up the cinema, revealing a previously unexpected international audience for a work of extreme subtlety and density. (Ironically, this was at least partly a result of the outrageous bad manners of the audience at the 1960 Cannes Festival screening, and the powerful critical counter-reaction.) In Antonioni's own career, it marks an obvious advance in authority. In spite of the difficult circumstances in which the film was made, with shortage of finance at times threatening almost to maroon the crew on their island, everything in it is lucid, exact and relevant, a formidible concentration of expressive means. And there is about it the unmistakable exhilaration of watching a major artist reaching the height of his powers, and falling upon the subject which releases and focuses his creative insights.
- Penelope Houston, in Roud (ed.), Cinema: A Critical Dictionary, New York, 1980
Anna, Anna's lover and Anna's friend go out on a yacht. Anna vanishes. Her lover and friend forget to find her. The famous synopsis is misleading, for though the disappearance of Anna is the pivotal event in L'Avventura it is not the only one, and the story that ensues is fairly full: the search; the beginnings of a love affair; the betrayal; the tentative reconciliation. It was Antonioni's revolutionary manner of telling his story (the novelty of real time! character and plot revealed by events rather than expository dialogue!) that made the film so startling in the early sixties. In retrospect these innovations fade into history and what remains is a beautifully paced, deviously plotted film graced with performances of brilliant understatement. And thus the film remains, regrettably, extraordinary.
L'Avventura is not a mystery film, but exactly what the title implies: an adventure. It is an erotic adventure story whose central relationship is haunted, especially for Claudia, its leading character, beautifully played by Monica Vitti, by the constant reminder in the absence of her predecessor that sexual relationships are transitory and that her own amatory security is threatened with the same fate. To many, no doubt, L'Avventura will remain a mystery film, since its director, Michelangelo Antonioni, supplies few signposts and his approach is that of an elliptical novel, with its emphasis on nuance and concentration, its rejection of nostalgia, pathos and technological definition. But if the final achievement, which is epoch-making, has literary parallels, the means are triumphantly cinematic, for L'Avventura is visually unmatched in the Italian cinema since Ossessione and La Terra Trema...
Technically, L'Avventura is as strikingly beautiful as a nude: the most Antonioni's almost Calvinistically pure images are clothed in is the sensuality of the love scenes. Elsewhere one recalls the equally extraordinary shots of sun-drenched vistas and moonlit corridors; rocks and sea; the changing disposition of people in relation to their backgrounds and each other. It is, in fact, no exaggeration to say that L'Avventura is a film as revolutionary today as was La Terra Trema in its time... Antonioni himself [is] an inimitably unique director - one of the handful who can claim to have extended the frontiers of the cinema with a film of complete sincerity, maturity and creative intuition.
- Monthly Film Bulletin, 1/61
The precision of Antonioni's applied technique is the most impressive feature of L'Avventura. On the island, slow panning and crane shots serve to set and then maintain a mood, planting people firmly in their spatial environment, isolating them against grey skies; characters stray near to each other without allowing their faces to meet. A boulder suddenly rumbles down one side of the island; a storm brews malevolently offshore to the tune of a rising wind; a motor-boat sounds in the distance and then vanishes. Such touches (and Antonioni had a hundred reels of magnetic tape on hand for the 'natural' effects), allied to Fusco's montage of real sounds and melancholy music, underline the frustration, purposelessness and essential futility of the party's search for Anna. Inland, Antonioni changes his technique, without sacrificing the beauty of his images. The final quarter of an hour, with its pregnant silences as Claudia roams her room in an attempt to defy her insomnia and then runs through the corridors and public rooms of the San Domenico Palace, forms one of the most memorable sequences in world cinema.
- Peter Cowie, Antonioni, Bergman, Resnais
Antonioni's study of the human condition at the higher social and economic levels - a study of adjusted, compromising modern man, afflicted by short memory, thin remorse, the capacity for easy betrayal. The characters are active only in trying to discharge their anxiety: sex is their sole means of contact. Too shallow to be truly lonely, they are people trying to escape their boredom by reaching out to one another and finding only boredom once again. Because the film is subtle and ascetic, yet laborious about revealing its meanings, it suggests Henry James when he "chewed more than he bit off." Visually, it's extraordinary: a calm hangs over everything - Antonioni's space is a vacuum in which people are aimlessly moving. Searchers and lost are all the same: disparate, without goals or joy. This is upper-class neo-realism - the poetry of moral and spiritual poverty. There had been nothing like it before, and it isn't fair to blame this movie for all the elegant sleepwalking that followed. There's something great here - a new mood, a new emotional rhythm - even with all the affectation.
- Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies
A young woman disappears on a boating trip in the Mediterranean; as they search for her, Claudia and Sandro start an affair. Andrey Tarkovsky described filmmaking as "sculpting in time" - a phrase which captures Antonioni's method perfectly. He is a filmmaker who seems to mould images at his own leisure without worrying about narrative or conventional characterisation. Long takes, limpid black-and-white photography and sparse dialogue and music heighten the eerie, dream-like quality. Although on its release 35 years ago L'Avventura was considered controversial and innovative, it bears clear similarities - both formal and thematic - with an earlier classic of Italian cinema, Viaggio in Italia. Like Rossellini, Antonioni uses haunting landscapes (notably the empty, volcanic island) and impersonal interiors to emphasise the emotional estrangement between the protagonists. His technique may seem hermetic, but it makes for mesmerising cinema.
- Sight & Sound, 2/96
I consider La noia (one of the most serious and beautiful books by Moravia) and Antonioni's L'avventura as the greatest cultural events of the year... It is a picture of great, unsparing severity, of keen morality, because it is firmly grounded in today's humanity, not in gratuitous or literary abstraction... As a description of society L'Avventura is just perfect. Its Southern Italian setting, for instance - the inferno of underdevelopment contrasted with the affluent inferno - is the most truthful and the most impressive that ever appeared on the screen, without the least indulgence to populism or local colour.
- Italo Calvino
There are many ways to talk about a film... I could start from the waterspout that pranced on the sea, shaded up high like a very tall mushroom with its hat lost in the clouds. I yelled to the cameraman to bring the camera, right away, and to shoot. But Monica Vitti was afraid, and so one of the fishermen who was working for us told her that he knew how to 'cut' the waterspout (his father had revealed the magic words to him in church one Christmas night, years back), and in fact he pronounced them, and the waterspout vanished. And I got angry because the waterspout was exactly what I needed to give mystery to the island; it was tremendous plastic material. The next day I wanted to fire the fisherman, but I couldn't.
- Michelangelo Antonioni