Rainy dark streets, unfulfilled love, alienated ambience, restless camera movement and mimialistic soundtrack come together here in Michelangelo Antonioni’s first full-length feature film.
With the recent passing of this incredible director that has largely shaped the course of Italian cinema – it is fascinating to go back to the early years and observe the origin of his artistic growth.
Like Antonioni’s future films such as The Girlfriends (1955) and L’avventura (1960), the story revolves around the intricacies of Italy’s upper social class. Paola (Lucia Bosé) is being investigated by Enrico (Ferdinando Sarmi), her jealous industrialist husband about her past life in her native town Ferrara. The story brings together Paola and her former lover Guido (Massimo Girotti) that hide their secret as the investigation progresses.
Antonioni provides two story lines; that of the investigator activity piecing together clues about Paola and her past friends, and the relationship between Paola and Guido that reacts to developments in the investigation. The result is a gradual tension build-up that is characterized by the couple constant fear of being followed. Giovanni Fusco’s minimalistic and at times chaotic sax and piano grim melodies effectively paint these two plot lines into their inevitable crossing.
What I found most interesting is the prominent use of fashion to communicate feelings of alienation and masking. Beyond the incredible costume design work done by Ferdinando Sarmi (also plays Enrico in the film – the only film he ever did!), what specifcally caught my eye was the four different hats Paola wears.
Each as you can see, seems to tell its own story. For example, the tilted hat was used in the elevator scene may hint of the past accident of the couple mutual friend who fell in the elevator tunnel. The flame-like hat with its fiery expression was worn when the couple first discusses their plan to murder Paola’s husband.
Another testament to Antonioni’s phenomenal command of various media vehicles to tell a story.