Saturday 28 June 2014

Red Desert [1964]

Red Desert makes for a strong case of requalifying Antonioni’s ‘Alienation Trilogy’ as a Tetralogy; it masterfully propounded the themes of alienation, ennui, shallow relationships and existential crisis in a modern world, as did L’Avventura, La Notte and L’Eclisse, and had his muse Monica Vitti in the lead – only that, unlike the three films preceding it, it was not in B/W. The Italian maestro’s first foray into colour filmmaking, it provided a harrowing portrait of “progress” – a bleak and haunting look at how relentless industrialization and uncontrolled technological growth might be accompanied with spiritual desolation and widening of gaps between humans instead of bridging them. The beautiful and enigmatic Giuliana (Vitti), wife of Ugo (Carlo Chionetti), the manager of a generation plant, and mother of a kid son, is suffering from depression and malaise, ignited by a car accident in the past, and subliminally exacerbated by her ravaged surroundings. The devastation caused by the plant’s unapologetically polluting nature, and the incessant strikes and conflicts between the plant’s management and workers, formed a key juxtaposition to her emotional estrangement, increasingly erratic nature, formation of irreparable marital fissures, and her growing bond with dandy and emotionally impregnable British engineer Corrado (Richard Harris), who’s come to recruit low-cost labour for a project in South America. The dour, grimy and barren landscape, and the monster-like plant’s belching smoke and poisonous detritus, was brilliantly captured by the breathtaking colour photography, with its grainy images and shallow depth of field.

Director: Michelangelo Antonioni
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Marital Drama/Existential Drama
Language: Italian
Country: Italy

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