L'Avventura (1960)

directed by Michelangelo Antonioni

Monica Vitti
Claudia (Monica Vitti) (courtesy of pHinnWeb)

Plot Summary

L'Avventura deals ostensibly with the disappearance of an affluent young woman, Anna, during a yachting trip and the fruitless search conducted by her lover, Sandro, and best friend, Claudia. The two become drawn to one another and, after initial hesitation from Claudia, develop a romantic relationship. Following a hotel party, Claudia catches Sandro with another woman and runs outside. Sandro follows and begins to cry, and Claudia puts her hand on his head to comfort him.


L'Avventura made its debut at the 1960 Cannes film festival to the jeers and irritation of its initial viewing audience. With its deliberate pace, elliptical story, and lack of conventional drama, one can imagine a similar reaction from a modern audience. However, once one becomes accustomed to the rhythm and visual style, the film provides a rare and meaningful experience. L'Avventura went on to win a special jury prize at Cannes and established Michelangelo Antonioni as an important and influential filmmaker.

The entire stucture of the film remains loose and unhurried. This stylistic choice reflects the idle nature of the characters and also provides a calculated rhythm in which to observe their behavior and study the images. These black and white images give the viewer much to look at, in terms of their striking beauty and composition. Sound is used in subtle ways that add to the realism: the ocean running through the coves of the island, the footsteps of Claudia in the hotel. Music is seldom employed, but this makes its appearances all the more effective.

One of the more striking aspects of the film is its relative lack of dialogue. Words are sparsely used and mainly serve as signposts for the characters' psyches. Occasionally, a line of dialogue will explain the transition from one setting to the next, but the film prefers to let images guide its story and not to be weighed down with detailed plot descriptions. The general absence of dialogue also serves as insight into the characters' general isolation and loneliness. They seem unable to fully understand, much less effectively communicate, their feelings and thoughts; it's an accurate presentation of the confusion and insecurity associated with modern life.

The film also examines the characters' shifting morality but arrives at no definite conclusion. Claudia initially resists Sandro's advances out of hope that Anna will soon be discovered and their original relationship will be restored. However, at the end of the film, Claudia is shown walking around her and Sandro's hotel room, waiting for him to return. In a long take, she approaches the hotel window and stares out at the ocean. The view of the sea gradually dominates the shot until the viewer and Claudia are reminded of Anna's disappearance. She becomes frantic at the thought of Anna's return and runs to find Sandro. These thoughts and the entire mood is conveyed solely through images and sound. The final image of Claudia comforting Sandro is powerful and ambiguous. She has compassion for the disloyal and confused Sandro--but where do they go from here? L'Avventura offers no direct answers but provides the psychological components needed to pose the question.

10 of 10

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© 1998

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