Rejection, alienation, and total abandonment staged in a bleak winter in the Poe valley with constant use of gray landscapes, barren trees, foggish rain and lots of mud all the actors negotiate their way in – provide an apt juxtaposition between the emotional and the physical realities in this masterpiece by Antonioni.
The film tells the story of Aldo (Steve Cochran) a factory worker that after seven years of living with Irma (Alida Valli), having a daughter together, Rosina (Mirna Girardi) – is told the unexpected. With the news of Irma’s husband death in Australia, Aldo logically hopes he now can marry Irma, but she instead shutters his world by revealing that she’s leaving him for another.
After his honor is completely tarnished in a strong scene at the small village piazza – the most sensitive public domain – Aldo decides to leave with Rosina in search for a new life elsewhere. His road trip with his daughter follows the same patterns found in De Sica’s Ladri di biciclette – The Bicycle Thief (1948): constant paternal indifference cracked by fleeting bursts of caring when the well-being of the child is threatened. In the former, the father mind is clouded by the loss of the only instrument needed for making a living, where in the latter – for the loss of the only person he loves.
One of the most rewarding elements of this masterpiece is the soundtrack by Giovanni Fusco. His minimal piano treatments sensibly amplifies the strong premise of Gioavanni’s struggle for the unattainable.
I especially liked the scene when the carriage driver who takes Giovanni and Rosina away from the village – stops the horse to look back at the distancing lights of the village. His observation that the seemingly happy lights may mislead as not all their tenants are as happy – is colored by this introspective piano tune that provides further depth to the words and context.