There’s something that Antonioni does in this film, that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. There are multiple shots where the scene appears out of focus, until Monica Vitti enters it, and we figure out that she’s what’s in focus. It was startling the first time it happened, and then I kept my eye out for it the rest of the time. It such an incredibly cool way to demonstrate the internal struggle this women is going through.
This is a very different kind of existential alienation story than I expected. The first Antonioni in color, I was picturing a kind of vast cinematic wandering about. I was expecting Vitti to be moving from place to place with little enthusiasm for life, except for maybe a random encounter here and there. This isn’t really that film at all. Instead it’s a character study of someone who has suffered some kind of brain trauma.
Vitti’s character was in a car accident, the seriousness of which is debated in the film. The result seems to be someone who is struggling with semi-diagnosed brain damage, and definitely with PTSD. She seems chemically and emotionally distanced from everything around her, literally unable to connect with her former self and life. We never see her before this happens, so we have no frame of reference for the true amount of damage, but it seems substantial.
To her “rescue” is Corrado, played by extremely Italian actor, and future Dumbledore, Richard Harris. He sees this women in struggle and thinks “yeah, I’d like to get with that.” The entire thing is super rapey and gross. He basically just pursues her, acting like he connects with her situation, but he honestly seems to think she just needs to “get over it.” They finally have semi-consensual sex and he immediately is revealed to be completely useless. He cannot save her, he doesn’t even really try.
For a lot of the film I just kept wondering who was taking care of this women’s child, and wondering if this was another film made by a man who was completely clueless about how a family works. But it’s not that at all. Her detachment from her child, where she is clearly just playing the role she thinks she’s supposed to play, is the most depressing part of the entire thing. This women has lost her grip on everything and no one in her life has any care or desire to help her at all. It’s depressing. Beautiful and depressing.