Top 250 Tuesday: #021 – L’Avventura (1960)

Continuing to wend my way through the Sight and Sound Top 250 Greatest Movies of All Time. This week, it’s #21 on the list, Michaelangelo Antonioni‘s L’Avventura. For a longer introduction and a look at the full list, just click here. And if you want a heads-up on what I’ll be watching for next week in case you want to watch along, just head on over to the Facebook page or follow me on Twitter (both of those links are in the sidebar) where I’ll be posting that info later in the day.

***Spoiler Warning! Yeah, this movie is 53 years old. Some would say at this point there’s no reason to throw up the spoiler alert. However, Just as last week’s viewing was a first for me, I know that there are those out there who still have not seen it, and since I am going to be discussing at least one of the major twists in the movie and its ending, I feel obliged to point that out here at the first in case you want to watch it knowing as little as possible going in. ***

936full-l'avventura-posterOkay, so here’s the basic set up for Michaelangelo Antonioni’s 1960 film L’Avventura: A group of “friends” gather to go on a yachting cruise in the Mediterranean. Along the way, they decide to stop for a swim and to explore one of the islands. While they are there, one of the party, Anna, disappears. After searching for her into the night and into the next day, they contact the police who also cannot locate her, nor can they find any clue as to what might have happened to her. Once they are returned from the island, Anna’s boyfriend Sandro and her best friend Claudia remain convinced that she is still alive and somehow mysteriously engineered her disappearance from the island. Both separately and together, they continue to search for her, until eventually they realize that during the search they may have fallen in love with each other. The end.

Yeah, that’s it. That’s the end. You’ll notice that I didn’t tell you whether or not Anna is still alive, nor did I mention anything about how the duo resolve their search. That’s because neither does Antonioni. You’ll also note that I only say that they “may” have fallen in love. That’s because much like the characters that populate this film, Antonioni seems afraid to commit one way or another as to whether they even have the capacity to love.

And perhaps that’s the point. Perhaps.

800px-L'avventura_(1959)_AntonioniPerhaps the ambiguity both of the ending and of the characterization at least became the point of the movie, even though it may not have started out that way. Antonioni has even admitted that he scripted and filmed a scene in which Anna’s body was recovered from the sea, indicating that he did have, at some point, a plan to resolve the mystery at least for the viewer, but that it was left out, not to maintain the ambiguity, but for “timing reasons”.

Personally, I was rooting for a very different ending. As the film comes to a close, the last shot shows Sandro sitting on a bench on a terrace of the hotel they are staying in with tears in his eyes as he tries to resolve the supposed conflict he is feeling between abandoning his “love” for Anna and committing to his new “love” for Claudia. Claudia herself is standing behind him and we get a shot of her hand reaching up to caress the back of his head, and we close with the two of them there on the terrace, simply staring out at the snow-covered Mt Etna.

Oh, did i mention that the reason that they are on the terrace in the first place is that that is where Claudia has run to because she has just found Sandro having sex on a couch with a wanna-be starlet who he managed to meet at a party that night? Yeah, that’s why I put the word “love” in quotation marks above. Of course there is no real reason for Claudia to be surprised about Sandro proving to be a bastard. After all, this is a guy who has seduced and even proposed to his girlfriend’s best friend even while they are under the guise of searching for that very girlfriend.

Of course, it’s not like she has much room for moral outrage either since she is that best friend.

L'avventuraActually, I could justify their actions somewhat if, perhaps, this were a case of slowly simmering love between the two having been building for awhile and them suppressing it because of their mutual caring for Anna, but the dialogue makes it clear that the cruise was the first time they had even met. Or, perhaps, if the investigation they undertook to discern the whereabouts of the woman they are both somehow convinced is still alive had taken weeks or months and over the course of that time they had realized their growing feelings for each other. However, again, the dialogue in the film indicates that this is not the case, and really only four or, at the most, five days have passed since Anna’s disappearance. (Really, the time frame of the entire movie is, like everything else about the film, kind of iffy, which is why I can’t pinpoint it any more clearly than that.)

Anyway, back to the way I was hoping the movie might end. Personally, I was rather hoping that when we got the close-up of Claudia’s hand we were going to see it pick up a large stone or perhaps even a brick and clout the lying, cheating bastard on the back of the head, whereupon Anna, indeed alive, would emerge from one of the hotel rooms, smile in satisfaction, and the two women would walk off together holding hands.

Another friend of mine who was at the same screening suggested she should have simply just pushed him off the balcony. Yeah, that would have worked, too.

But instead, no, we wind up with a film that is supposedly “about ambiguity”.


Or perhaps not.

So what are your thoughts on L’Avventura? Is it a movie that you’ve seen or would like to? If you have seen it, is it one that would make your own Top 10 list? Or would it not even crack your Top 250? Let me know below.


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