Wednesday, 9 October 2013
The Passenger 
Nearly a decade after his most influential days Antonioni spectacularly returned to form with possibly his last masterpiece, The Passenger. It contained all his distinctive thematic concerns and stylistic choices – urban alienation, deep existential crisis, a fatalistic sense of ennui, and leisurely pacing. In a symbolic expression of the protagonist’s barrenness and disenchantment, the story begins at a desert. David Locke (Jack Nicholson) is a successful TV-journalist, and is in Chad for a documentary on the country’s political rebels. However he’s so utterly bored with his life and job that, in a moment of sudden inspiration, he switches identity with a dead globe-trotting businessman he shares an eerie physical resemblance with. However, as it turns out, the man was an illegal arms dealer to the same rebels he’d been documenting. Meanwhile, while his separated wife (Jenny Runacre) starts joining pieces of his “death”, he embarks on a journey with an equally directionless architecture student (Maria Schneider) he meets in Spain, and that ends up adding what he’d been missing all along, viz. a sense of purpose, which makes his desire to hold on to his false identity that much stronger. But, getting lost, he realizes, isn’t that easy. Nicholson’s remarkably understated turn as the quintessential Antonioni protagonist, and the narrative arc his character undertakes, were reminiscent of his unforgettable turn in Five Easy Pieces. The film was a technical tour de force, and deceptively so. In one early scene, the present moves to flashbacks and back to present within a single take. And the bravura penultimate scene, comprising of an incredibly complex single-take dolly shot, needs to be seen to be believed.
Director: Michelangelo Antonioni
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Existential Drama/Road Movie