Archive for the ‘ 1961 / La Notte ’ Category

The History Of Cinema Is Made On Film (1979)


After seeing your films, one would never think that Antonioni had started in cinema as a documentarist. Was the experience of making documentaries helpful to you? Did it help to form your remarkable cinematic eye? 

Let’s leave these adjectives out of our discussion. They don’t do any good. Making documentaries was very helpful to me because I did not know whether I was capable of making films. In making documentaries, I understood that I would be able to go on to make films that were as good as anyone else’s.

In reexamining your documentaries, one can see that already then you were telling stories. 

This is true in a certain sense. Without even realizing it, in People of the Po Valley I focused more on the family that lived on the barge than on the landscape. I must confess that I was completely taken with those people. Unfortunately, I could not complete the documentary. More than one thousand meters of film were destroyed, and the way the documentary was edited, in its present form, does not emphasize enough that subtle narrative trend that emerged during the filming. 

After a first experience that was in some way “neorealist ” – your documentaries and, later on, Attempted Suicide, your episode of Love in the City – you took riff in a different direction. Were you aware that you were entering into new territory? 

No, I was not aware of it because during that time neorealism was not an issue. Before People of the Po Valley in 1943, Italian cinema did not portray the poor lower classes in such a harsh way (I am referring to the final part of the documentary which was lost). At that time, documentaries used to deal with places, works of art, the Charterhouse of Parma, the Abbey of Pomposa, the paintings by Canaletto, the valleys of Comacchio carefully cleared of any sign of hardship – anything but a sort of praise of [their staple industry,] the eel. These were the products of what was then the Istituto Luce. I instead went to the mouth of the Po river, placing at risk poor Minoccheri, who was my protector within the Istituto Luce and the only one who fought to let me do whatever I wanted. Let me say it again: these images were very harsh, representing the very difficult life of the fishermen, who lived at the mouth of the river in straw huts that would flood after every sea storm. That piece of land would become a mud slide. The fishermen would put their children on top of the tables inside of the huts to keep them from drowning, and they would attach bed sheets to the ceiling to absorb the water that came pouring down. Our cinema had carefully avoided representing those situations, as the fascist government prohibited them. I do not want to sound presumptuous, but I was the first person ever to portray them. No one really knows this, no one will admit it, but the fact that I invented my own brand of neorealism gives me a certain sense of satisfaction. Unfortunately, all of the film material was taken to the North of Italy by the fascists who had remained faithful to Mussolini [after the 1943 Armistice]. When the war ended, I went to get it back and I discovered it in a warehouse was, half-ruined by the humidity. Now the documentary only portrays the beginning of the storm, which is a shame because the rest was truly impressive.  Continue reading

The Night, The Eclipse, The Dawn (November 1964)

Your three previous films, L’avventura, La notte, The Eclipse gave, the impression of developing out of one another and standing along the same line of inquiry. And now you seem to have reached a new destination with Red Desert. For the ‘woman in the film, perhaps, it is a desert but for you, it is something fuller; more complete: it’s a film about the whole world and not just about the world of today.

For the moment, it’s very hard for me to talk about Red Desert. It’s too recent a film. I’m still too close to the “intentions” that drove me to make it; I don’t have the clarity of thought and the detachment necessary to judge it correctly. Still, I think I can say that this time I haven’t made a film about feelings. The results that I had obtained from my previous films – good or bad as they may be – have by now become obsolete. The question is completely different. At one time, I was interested in the relationships of characters to one another. Now, instead, the main character must confront her social environment, and that’s why I treat the story in a completely different way.

It’s too simplistic to say – as many people have done – that I am condemning the inhuman industrial world which oppresses the individuals and leads them to neurosis. My intention – and I realize that one always knows where one starts off, but very rarely where one is going to – my intention was to translate the poetry of that world, in which even factories can be beautiful. The lines and curves of factories and their chimneys can be more beautiful than the outline of trees, which we are already too accustomed to seeing. It is a rich world, alive and serviceable. Continue reading

A Conversation With Michelangelo Antonioni (October 1960)

You are the author of all the stories of your films. Is that because you haven’t found any other way of illustrating what you have in mind; or is it that, for you, to create a film story and to direct it become one and the same thing? 

For the principle of the cinema, as for that of all the arts, there is one choice. As Camus says, it is the revolt of the artist against actuality. If you stick to that principle, how important are the means by which reality is disclosed? Whether the author of a cinema finds it in a novel, in a news item or in his own fantasy, what counts is his way of isolating it, of stylizing it, of making it his own. If he achieves that, the source has no importance. The plot of Crime and Punishment without the form which Dostoevsky gave it is a mediocre plot. It could become either a very beautiful or very ugly film. That is why I have almost always written my own films. Once I was struck by one of Pavese’s novels. As I worked on it, I knew that I loved it for reasons entirely different from those which had originally made me think of it as a film. And the pages which had interested me the most were those which lent themselves least to a cinematic translation. On the other hand, it is very difficult to find one self an original story line, since the original material is already selected in terms of a very definite narrative style. Finally, I find it much simpler to invent the story completely. A director is a man, therefore he has ideas; he is also an artist, therefore he has imagination. Whether they are good or bad, there are so many stories to tell, it seems to me. And that which I see, that which happens to me is constantly changing these stories.

The subjects of your films resemble one another curiously; they always revolve about the same problem: the couple, the woman, solitude. Why? 

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