Saturday, February 9, 2013

Red Desert

It's established early on in Michelangelo Antonioni's Red Desert that Giuliana (Monica Vitti) is a woman on the verge of mental collapse. But from what precisely? The lack of her husband's presence? The constantly changing world around her? Both?

Antonioni decides to explore both possibilities. Indeed, Giuliana's husband is at work throughout a majority of the film, so we understand why she feels so alone. Every day, she's left alone with their son and her insecurities. It's only a matter of time before her insecurities make her unravel completely.

The other possibility is the environment Giuliana is trapped in is slowly driving her mad. Machinery rising to the heavens, skies filling with poisonous smoke, the never-ending clanging of metal...this is also what Giuliana has to endure every day. Another clear understanding as to why she's going to pieces.

Thanks to cinematographer Carlo Di Palma, he makes the world Giuliana's a part of both horrendous and beautiful. The red factory pipes, the yellow smoke, Giuliana's green coat...they all make the film look alive and dead. (I wonder if any later films took such a cue.)

Red Desert is a brilliant film that could be relevant even to today's standards. (Global warming and industrialization, y'know?) Vitti gives a brave performance of someone on the breaking point and unable to do anything about it. It was a daring film back in 1964 and it still is forty-nine years later.

My Rating: *****

1 comment:

  1. What a gorgeous review. I love the way you described how this filmmaker used imagery and cinematography to tell a story. I'm adding this to my watchlist.


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