La Notte

La Notte ★★★★★

"The reason I feel like dying is... I don't love you anymore."

"You're just weak... like me."

Right from its opening sequence showing the city through reflected and normal views, La Notte makes a clear point that it is going to be all about showing the reflected and normal point of views of its characters. The film is flooded with reflections so much so that no frame feels empty despite fewer characters because the way the characters dwell on several things ranging from existentialism to infidelities, everything feels so real to the point but still there's a lot they're hiding in what their thoughts truly reflect and there's so much unsaid in the said. That said, Antonioni's genius lies not in filling the frames with reflections but in the way he etched his characters so as to reflect many feelings incident on a character to another as if everyone is holding a mirror to whomsoever he/she is conversing with!

I'm still warming up to the visual style of Antonioni but from what I've experienced till now in L'Avventura and La Notte, there are certain recurring visual cues like using doorways and windows to frame characters and the blocking in scenes involving three leads form a perfect triangle, position-wise or love-wise or feeling-wise. Above all, Antonioni's visual hallmark seems to be his interest in alienating couples in shots of vast landscapes that fill the utter emptiness in their state of affairs.

Marcello Mastroianni, Jeanne Moreau, Monica Vitti are easily three of the most beautifully radiant faces to grace the screen and imagine the audacity of Antonioni to reflect such multitudes of melancholy from them in making me think - Are human lives this bright yet dark at the same time and has black-and-white photography ever looked this gorgeously transcendent (add to this, the atmospheric jazz score) in how each image had the ability to hold the fort in telling a story of its own?

Mastroianni's face somehow has this right mixture of charisma and enigma so much so that he was born to play this kind of roles and having watched earlier, I felt the hangover of Guido here in Giovanni as both play the ladies' man suffering from writer's block, although the latter is more humanized here. I'm yet to recover from the effect of getting blinded by Claudia's incandescence in L'Avventura and Monica Vitti makes the suffering only worse by blinding me once again, this time in the form of Valentina who opens Giovanni's eyes by erasing not only her tape but also his extramarital thoughts. Unlike Claudia who kept hanging on tightly to her suffering ensued as a result of her ties with a man always on the loose for a woman in escaping loyalty, Valentina was "at least smart enough" to not break up a marriage. Finally, Valentina feels worn out by the couple that night and done with shedding the light on Giovanni, she switches off the light and then her silhouette holds the pose - a frame that is truly goddess stuff and I just wanted to pluck it out as it is from the screen for hanging it on my wall!

With Marcello Mastroianni and Monica Vitti being the stars whom I've already experienced in another film, the real star for me here is Jeanne Moreau who shines the brightest as an actor in her character undergoing the bleakest of situations. Every single stare of Lidia screams out loneliness or boredom and had she uttered those feelings out, they would've been easily misunderstood for jealousy or seeking attention. In this regard, words can't do any justice to how Moreau owned the character and reflected the intricate innermost plight of Lidia at the hands of a man like Giovanni who was oblivious to everything and went on with taking without giving or giving too little.

At the end of the day or rather the night, La Notte is less about a man suffering from writer's block and more about a woman suffering from lover's block in being unable to love her man anymore. Just like how L'Avventura focused on the vanishing of love rather than the vanishing of a character, La Notte goes a step further in vanishing both love AND desire (AND separating the two words here itself is the root cause of many separations) gradually during the night that becomes fully evident in the ending set during the morning time where once again a (marriage's) metaphorical dusk is contrasted against the literal dawn! La Notte's ending scene is pure poetry literally as well as metaphorically and the film is a cinematically modernist masterpiece from the filmmaker who detests cliches of modernism thematically.

M S Krishna Prateek liked these reviews