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L'ECLISSE
1962 - Michelangelo Antonioni
Italy / France
57
Opening Shot

The film opens to a richly textured shot the begins on a lamp and books before panning to the right where a man is seated by a desk looking upset. He is glancing forward and quickly looks away... the camera cuts toward a woman who has her back turned toward the wall. She spins around and looks down at a picture frame and begins to place objects within the space of the frame.

The Film

"You're right. Let's make a decision. I already have. I'm leaving." L'Eclisse is the third and final film of Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni's loose trilogy (following L'Avventura and La Notte). To me it's the finest of the trilogy, and to me Antonioni's greatest cinematic achievement. Much like the previous films of the trilogy (or just about any Antonioni film), L'Eclisse is less focused on plot then it is on themes and visual atmosphere. That is where the greatest beauty of L'Eclisse lies, in the breathtakingly detailed visual imagery and atmosphere. Using little dialogue, and a Rome setting as the canvas, Antonioni poetically views his quintessential examinations of isolation, loneliness, and disconnection. L'Eclisse is a quiet and sad film with a depressing tone of human detachment and alienation. Yet it remains a work of art for the sheer skill in which Antonioni presents it, as well as his definitive actress of the 1960s, Monica Vitti, who gives perhaps her greatest performance here. More then story this is a film of emotional state and it is flawlessly captured through Antonioni's visual imagery. Notice the way he uses space and landscape as a form of expression. It is quite captivating and absolutely remarkable. The final montage moment of the film is a stunning and powerful sequence of master filmmaking as it recaptures the images that we previously seen and felt within the viewers subconscious. Here we see the films world through the backdrop, absent of it's characters. Perfectly executed display in cinema at it's purest artistic form (images and sounds). L'Eclisse, like most of Antonioni's work, may not be for everyone, but to me it rates among the very greatest achievements of Italian cinema.

The Filmmaker

Much like Federico Fellini, the earliest filmmaking development of Michelangelo Antonioni is in Italian Neorealism, where he began making documentary shorts about the working class. However, also like Fellini, Antonioni quickly abandoned the traditional sense of Neorealism (an era marked by Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio De Sica, and Luchino Visconti) in favor of his more abstract cinema (which itself is much different then that of Fellini's). As a result, Antonioni is perhaps (to me anyway) the greatest expressionist and visual master in the history of Italian cinema. Antonioni's films are less narrative conventions then they are experimentations of cinematic narrative. While Neorealism used social environments to define humanity and character, Antonioni uses environment and character in a mysterious and simplistic form of psychological expression. Antonioni's concern is focused on the actual environment itself, just as much as it is with the characters of the environment. It is the environment that is a reflection of the characters and the emotional significance is an expression of the psychological state of mind of the characters. Antonioni's particular fascination is modern architecture to convey the emotional state of his characters- which is generally distant, alienated, and lonely. It is this visually expressive examination of loneliness and alienation that Antonioni particularly masters. Especially in the way it is captured through environment. As such, landscapes and spaces become most prominent and memorable in all his work. This may be most evident in Antonioni's richest period (1960s- notably his loose trilogy which begins with his most acclaimed film L'Avventura and concludes with his masterpiece L'Eclisse). Made in 1962 L'Eclisse is Antonioni at the peak of his artistic mastery, notably the incredible final montage sequence which captures his quintessential representation of space and landscape as a form of expression (as we see the films world through the backdrop, absent of it's characters). To me the film stands as one of the very great achievements of visual expressionism ever put on film and the final montage is a perfectly executed display in cinema at it's purest artistic form (images and sounds). Because of his reliance on environment as an expression of emotion, few filmmakers depend on their visual imagery more then Antonioni (at least since the invention of sound). As a result, many of his films and expression are done with silence- or as a "feeling". That is where the narrative key of his films lie, as above all Antonioni is a filmmaker who searches for the feelings within human beings that live in a world where feelings are hidden inside. Images express feelings more effectively then dialogue, particularly the feelings that are most prominent in Antonioni's films (loneliness, discomfort, sorrow). Antonioni finds the most expressive cinematic feelings through a lack of communication or in loneliness. Through his visual expression (as well as a gift with sound expression), Antonioni's films reveal complex depths and psychological levels. As a purely artist filmmaker, Antonioni is without question one of the greatest of all-time!

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