Archive for the ‘ Interviews ’ 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

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I Am Tired Of Today’s Cinema (March 1975)

Nowadays is not only us critics who enthusiastically support your work, as it was at the times of L’avventura and La notte. A large part of the public has also shown its enthusiasm  for your work since Blow-Up was released. How do you explain this change? 

Today, the public has matured and accepts certain themes and/or language without difficulty. As for myself, I would say that, instinctively, I might have found a way to make my films more – how can I say­ Americans would say exciting, more interesting, but that is not the right word. More precisely, I might have found a way to be less reserved in showing emotions and feelings. Perhaps I have been able to deal with a topic more deeply and even more skillfully. I do not really know. A film – I will never grow tired of repeating it – does not need to be “understood.” It is enough if the viewer “feels” it. To see a film must be an overall personal, intuitive experience, like when one reads a poem. Who would dream of being able to thoroughly explain a poem? Take The Passenger, for instance (I am sorry to keep returning to this film, but this is the film that everyone wants to talk about), or its last sequence, that long uninterrupted take. There is no need for the audience to understand it from a technical point of view; it is enough if they are sensitive to that slow flowing of things through the window, while the camera slowly moves onward.

In The Passenger, however, technique is very important, even if this is not unusual in your films. 

It seems to me that there is something unusual here. In general, I have never made camera movements that were not justified by the movements of the characters. Here, instead, the camera moves on its own, as if it had the same interest for objects, landscape, and people that the protagonist, the reporter, has. Why this? It seems to me almost arrogant to answer. I work very instinctively, and the meanings of certain techniques become clear to me only later on. For example, in reviewing The Passenger I ask myself: Why did I film that scene in this way? It will seem strange, but I always find an answer that I have never previously thought of. The presence of a car in a pan, apparently coming from nowhere, might have been suggested to me by the fact that a character without a past of his own, but with the past of someone who is now dead, was riding in that same car. Continue reading

The American Desert (August 1968)

What will your film be called? 

Zabriskie Point. It’s the name of a place in Death Valley, in the California desert.

Blow-Up represents your English experience. Will the new film deal ‘with an analogous experience in the United States? Or aren’t places important to you? 

Places are important. But Blow-Up’s story could have happened anywhere. Zabriskie Point, instead, is a film about America. America is the real protagonist of the film. The characters are just a pretext.

Don’t you think that the themes of your past films (incommunicability, solitude, anguish, alienation and so forth) find their greatest confirmation in Anglo-Saxon society? That is, don’t you think that these themes are, after all, the real themes of the most advanced form of neo capitalism? 

Yes, that’s true. These themes have a clearer, more extreme, more profound resonance here in the United States.

How does the revolt of young people (students, hippies, beatniks) fit into your usual world? I mean: until now you have shown us the middle-class grappling with its problems, but you have shown us them from within, you’ve accepted the values of the bourgeoisie itself.  Students, young people, it seems to me, deliberately place themselves outside of the system; they try, as they say nowadays, to challenge it. Does this dissent interest you? 

Yes, it interests me; in fact, I have incorporated it into the film.

In what way? 

I can’t say. I’ll limit myself to mentioning that the characters of Zabriskie Point are in a certain way typical of the present American situation. More than a psychological affinity they share an ideological affinity. Ideological affinity in turn becomes a means to communication, to mutual understanding.  Continue reading

Profession Against (August 1983)

I considered refusing the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, but I could not come up with a good enough reason. I would have refused it on instinct alone. I have received many awards, at almost all the film festivals – Cannes, Venice, and Berlin. The only place I have not yet won is Moscow, but that’s such a particular festival that I could do without. So, when I think of another Golden Lion added to the one I already have, it is already too much. I do not know how to say it – I mean, it puts me into a situation – that is, it gives me another responsibility in dealing with the past, and this is what bothers me. I do not want this responsibility. My films are what they are, I do not know if they deserve another Golden Lion or not, and I do not want to have to talk about it. This is how I feel about that prize.

Then what made you accept it? 

I did it because it is very difficult to say no to Venice. It seems a bit presumptuous for me to say: “No, I do not need another award, I am already who I am.” After all, I guess it is OK to have another one.

Maybe you don’t like these festivals because they show films that no longer satisfy you as they did when you filmed them, films that you have regrets about. Have you ever thought about that? 

Well, in my professional life I have regrets in the sense that when I see one of my films again I do not always like it. That is, I might not like the whole film, but rather just parts of it – certain sequences, or maybe its subject matter. I would not say that I am satisfied with the entire film. There has not been a film of mine that has completely satisfied me.

Not even one? What about The Girlfriends, The Cry, La notte, Red Desert, Identification of a Woman, The Passenger?  Continue reading

My Method (December 1982)

To begin with, we want to ask a ‘very simple question, the same one that the child asks Niccolo in Identification of a Woman: “Why don’t you make science-fiction films?” Let us ask you the same thing. 

A question like that isn’t for you – it’s OK for a child like the one in the film! You know well that I haven’t been able to do everything that I wanted to do. I suggest ideas, but it is the producer and his distributor who make the decision. It’s very difficult today to make suggestions for films, especially for a science-fiction film; they immediately make comparisons with what the Americans are doing in this field, even though we don’t have access to the same resources as they do. It’s useless to try and compete with them; we have to do something different. In the end credits to Blade Runner; there were at least forty technicians. There aren’t that many in the whole of Italy! And even if there were, they would cost too much to hire. 

I thought your film was trying to be an answer to American science fiction films – an answer to E.T. and Blade Runner, a European ‘version of these things, dealing with everyday issues. 

Perhaps. What you say is interesting. Why did you think that?

The character of Niccolo – the director seems very interested in everything that has to do with science. The telescope allows him to approach the farthest his human eye can reach. And then there is the issue that recurs throughout the film: the issue of otherness, be it a woman or other objects. Or perhaps the “other” is extraterrestrial? 

That’s interesting. I like interpretations, a film is always open. You can interpret it any way you want. Seeing a film is always a personal experience. I would like to make a science-fIction film, but to do so in an Italian style isn’t easy. It’s such an alien mentality to us. Still, I did write a script for a science-fiction film: it’s half classic science fiction, with extraterrestrials; but then that format gives way to a different type of science fiction, where you find yourself inside the characters, who are all characters from science fIction. It was interesting, but I wasn’t satisfied with the production deal so I didn’t go ahead with it. 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

The Eclipse (October 1975)

Thirteen years ago, The Eclipse appeared as the film that would complete the existential discourse that began with L’avventura and was followed by La notte. Their common theme was alienation and the crisis of emotions within a bourgeois context. The Eclipse ended with the total silence of the human voice, with man reduced to a simple object. How would you represent middle­ class man today? The same way you represented him then or would you give him a different destiny? 

I would say that the bourgeoisie of that time was quite different from the one of today. From what it’s possible to understand – from things that happen every once in a while, most of all in Italy – it seems to me that the middle-class is very much involved in social and political life in order to defend its privileges, but also because of an internal corruption, which will eventually bring the middle-class, I believe, to its extinction. Society is proceeding along certain channels where it’s difficult to find a way out. I am neither a sociologist nor a politician, but it seems to me that – not only in Italy, but throughout the world – we are moving toward a certain type of society. The middle-class is showing signs of deterioration with its “angry” reaction to the leveling-out that is taking place in society. Therefore, if I had to make The Eclipse today, I would be even harder on them, more violent.

In the film I directed thirteen years ago, there are signs of violence that are connected with money. Today it would be even more so. It probably would no longer be connected with the Stock Exchange, because the Stock Exchange – although it still survives-already shows signs of its ineffectiveness. Probably – but I am not sure of it – the society of tomorrow will no longer have a need for the Stock Exchange. The changes in the price of gold, of the dollar, of the lira, the “monetary serpent” and all of these things so difficult to follow (I studied finance when I was at the University and it was so abstruse that I had to strive hard to pass the exams) are manifestations of mechanisms that are getting more and more “rusty.” I could be mistaken, but on the outside, to a non­ expert like me, that’s how things look. And yet the survival of the middle­ class is tied to these mechanisms. I am not making a political statement, nor am I speaking as an economist of the left would. I am speaking as a fIlmmaker, as someone who is used to looking at reality, to drawing certain conclusions from events, from facts, from feelings. I would say that The Eclipse is still a modern film in that its protagonists are people who do not believe in feelings – that is, they limit them to certain things. Continue reading