A film by Michelangelo Antonioni
Italy / 117 minutes / Col
10th Aug ;5.45 pm / Perks Mini Thetaer
Red Desert is the most ambitious of all of Antonioni’s attempts to ground the condition of our modern existence in a theory of alienation. It is a disturbing ambient drama about post-natal anxiety and the malaise of industrial society: a deeply depressed young mother Giuliana (Monica Vitti), whose husband Ugo (Carlo Chionetti) runs a factory, finds herself drawn to Ugo's handsome associate Corrado (Richard Harris) who arrived to recruit a workforce for a mining adventure in south America. The landscape is a grim, sludgy mass of churned soil and dark satanic mills, belching out smoke and flame: Antonioni boldly counters the picturesque view of sunny, happy Italy.
Antonioni sought to paint a film, more than write it, and indeed it is a film of picturesque framings and evocative moods. The extensive use of doorways and passageways call attention to the operation of framing, and the manner in which a character may come into or out of frame. The long takes tend to hold both the moment before and after the character has entered the frame, suggesting impermanence and the independent, though vulnerable, existence of the landscape.
The use of color is the most dazzling aspect of Red Desert, which on a purest level, is visual spectacle. There is one sequence of natural color in the film, a brief story sequence related by Giuliana to Valerio. Everywhere else, color is meticulously calculated and arranged, with dynamic colorization correlating with Giuliana’s emotional states.
Antonioni has explored new visual techniques here for the revelation of the inner moods and feelings of psychological narrative. Much of what is conveyed is not presented in verbal terms, but almost outside the scope of verbal expression. Antonioni achieves this expression not only by his use of color, but also by his comprehensive use of composition, editing, character movements, and camera techniques. in Red Desert: we are on earth but also on some remote planet, in the present time but also (perhaps) the future. The movie is a beautiful, haunting, and complex meditation on the spiritual cost of modernity.
Michelangelo Antonioni was born in 1912 into a middle-class family and grew up in bourgeois surroundings of the Italian province. In Bologna he studied economics and commerce while he painted and also wrote criticism for a local newspaper. In 1939 he went to Rome and worked for the journal "Cinema" studying directorship at the School of Cinema. As he was indebted to neorealism his films reflect his bourgeois roots like in his first movie Cronaca di un amore (1950) or La signora senza camelie (1953) or Le amiche (1955).
His biggest success was the trilogy L'avventura (1960), La notte (1961), and L'eclisse (1962), with which he won several prizes. This success allowed him to go abroad and to work on international scale in English: e.g. Blowup (1966) in London and Zabriskie Point (1970) in the USA as well as Professione: reporter (1975). A stroke in 1985 severely inhibited his productivity until his death in 2007.