In 1962, Michelangelo Antonioni (who had earned the nickname “the Master of Alienation”) released his third film, L’Eclisse (also known as “The Eclipse”), as part of his alienation trilogy.
The Italian modernist director was known for his radical new style, not following any convention of filmmaking and most of all, characters and events are disconnected. The first part of the trilogy “L’avventura” (1960) was an international success and would introduce the world to the actress Monica Vitti, a woman who would appear as the main character in several of his films. Antonioni returned with “La Notte” (1961) starring Jeanne Moreau and Marcello Mastroianni which focused on the slow death of a marriage and final of the trilogy “L’Eclisse” would focus on the alienation of man in the modern world.
Known for his long takes but artistically capturing the surroundings of a location, Antonioni’s “L’Eclisse” was a winner of the Jury Special Prize at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival and nominated for the Palme d’Or. Needless to say, when watching Antonioni’s films, these are films that are not your typical films and therefore was either applauded or booed. “L’Eclisse” is a big example of a film which you watch without expectation and you just take in the acting, the cinematography and then you think afterward, what Antonioni was trying to accomplish. In this case, a disconnect with love.
“L’Eclisse” is one of those films in which a viewer can definitely watch and each person probably can come up with a different answer or something similar to what another person is thinking.
For me, Vittoria is a woman who has dated far too many men who have not had this emotional attachment to her. She’s a beautiful woman but deep inside, she’s emotionless. Why? One can go deeper and think, who are the men in her life? Where is her father? How has she been treated? And is she suspicious of men that try to get close to her? And why is she emotionally detached? There are very few moments in the film where see Vittoria smile and relaxed. May it be a scene where she becomes an African native and just dances and has fun, another scene where she just watches a plane coming down for a landing or a scene where she sees a dog and just laughs. Perhaps what we are seeing is Vittoria wanting to be in another place but now. Where her life is hearing about her mother want money, seeing men who talk about money, have material things and look at her as only as a plaything.
As for Pioro, he is a cocky stockbroker who has made a lot of money in his career and is attracted to Vittoria. But similar to Vittoria, he is also somewhat emotionally detached as we see in one scene, a drunkard steals his nice convertible and he doesn’t seem that all bothered by it. It seems as if he is hoping he can get lucky with Vittoria more than anything. In fact, when police find his car in a river bank with the dead drunkard inside, not once does he show any emotion towards the man who died in his car, all he can think about is selling it and buying a new car.
But it goes far beyond these two characters, for example at the Rome Stock Exchange, we see the stock brokers in frenzy and then taking a moment of silence of a death of their colleague and then back again to their way of life. This is similar to Vittoria where we see her at rare times leaving her state of coldness and we get a glimpse of happiness.
And then the character of Marta, a new friend of Vittoria and a woman who is from Italy but was raised in Kenya and now back in Italy and feels disconnected. Her home features pictures and relics from Kenya as if she truly misses the environment but not the people but not the people at all (in fact, she makes fun of them) and sees herself living a life in Kenya with importance. But now back home, she is now a person who has lost that feeling of importance and feels uncomfortable.
Antonioni’s “L’Eclisse” is a film about disconnection and similar to his previous two films, a person’s view of this detachment can be seen be applauded because we rarely see all characters in a film portrayed in this manner or because of that, one can be disenchanted by it. What I enjoyed about “L’Eclisse” is that there are fragments placed within the storyline that is made for people to think. May it be the Rome stock market or the architecture of Rome in the background or how the lamp lights look artistic during the night. But also, how Antonioni defies normalcy, defies closure and presents his film the way he wants to without following the rules that most filmmakers go by. It’s somewhat of a rebellious film but it fits within the confines of his trilogy on modern malaise.
There is so much too appreciate about “L’Eclisse” and needless to say, it all comes down to the viewer and what they are able to appreciate. If one is thinking this will be your typical romantic film, those who have not seen an Antonioni film or “L’avventura” or “La Notte” are going to quickly learn that “L’Eclisse” is far from what they may expect.
Overall, “L’Eclisse” is a Michelangelo Antonioni masterpiece and is a piece of Italian cinema that is deserving in every cineaste’s collection. Highly recommended!