At first I thought La notte was so boring. There was nothing going on, both characters seemed lifeless. Their world was depressing, with their best friend on his deathbed. It was hard to see the importance of the story and why it was being told. But, as the story progressed the passiveness of the beginning sets up the mood of the entire story. It’s difficult when a story doesn’t necessarily pull its viewer in within the first 10 minutes, but La Notte was set up this way for a reason. The reason was to get the characters on their journey, to realize this life is not working for them.
The shots at the beginning credits slowly descend the viewer into the world of Lidia and Giovanni. The shots move with ease down a modern-skyscraper building side. Images of the surrounding city are reflected on the building’s glass. Before the characters are shown, the pace and location of the film is established. There also seems to be an analogy relating the beginning to the whole relationship between Giovanni and Lidia. Like the beginning shots, their relationship will slowly go down and this story will reveal the end, the last stop of the descent.
From the first scene with Lidia and Giovanni it’s hard to tell much about their relationship. They come to visit a mutual friend, Tommaso, but each has their own quirk. Lidia lets Tommaso hold and kiss her hand for more then the appropriate amount of time. Giovanni allows himself to be seduced by the nymphomaniac when waiting for the elevator. It’s almost like a political relationship, they are together just so other people can see them together. There is nothing between them, no feeling, no happiness, and no love. The viewer is shown this right off the bat, but it takes Lidia the majority of the film to finally realize that the love is lost.
Throughout the story Lidia and Giovanni experience connections and disconnections. The connections and disconnections are more in the visual sense. Each follows their own path, but the two meet up to reconcile here and there. This series of separations starts off with the pair leaving the hospital at different times. They continue to do this throughout the film. They come together for moments, while not truly connecting, and then continue on their separate ways. It’s like visualizing a DNA strand, it crosses paths, but only for a moment, and each side is completely different.
Lidia and Giovanni just flow through their side of the strand. There is only one point where Lidia wants to break free from the flow, and it happens when everyone is jumping in the pool. Lidia is about to jump in but is stopped in her steps. I think it was Lidia’s one chance to break free from the mundane life she has been living. Giovanni also wants to leave his mundane life. He tries to seduce Valentina throughout the party. Like Lidia, Giovanni is unable to escape.
Ideas of a modern society are conveyed in many ways throughout the film. The first half of the movie takes place in modern Italy. Every shot through a window shows large buildings of the city. Giovanni claims that they don’t get out much except to drive around. The sounds of helicopters, jets, and cars can be heard quite vividly too. When Lidia goes on her walk, she leaves the modern parts of town, to come upon a ravaged, aging world. The buildings are crumbling, a child is left in terror, and guys fight for no apparent reason. It’s as if the modern is taking over, and anything left behind will be forgotten. Giovanni comes and takes Lidia away, which leads the story into the second half.
For many, the second half shows the darkness, or the night, of a certain life. Numerous problematic citations overlap throughout La Notte. Tommaso’s life comes to an end, Lidia and Giovanni’s relationship comes to and end, the old world of Italy is ending, Giovanni believes his ability to write is coming to and end, and Mr. Gherardini is worried that his relationship with his workers is coming to an end. All these endings happen within the darkness of Mr. Gherardini’s modern home. Though Lidia and Giovanni’s end is at the heart of the story, Antonioni shows the night slowly falling on so many, and with a new day, change must come.
Syd Field-Michelangelo Antonioni & La Notte
Senses of Cinema-James Brown
Gene Siskel Film Center