Winner of the Jury Prize at Cannes in 1960 (to much controversy at the time), Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni's challenging drama entitled L'Avventura (or The Adventure) is a film rewarding as a narrative, yet disturbingly leaves many questions to the viewers to ponder upon for the rest of their lives. Starring Monica Vitti as Claudia in her breakout role, this film marks the first film in Antonioni's thematic trilogy on wealth and social structure.At the beginning of the film, Claudia (Monica Vitti), her friend Anna, and Anna's lover Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti) leave on an exotic yacht trip. On board the yacht are several other wealthy couples from different age groups. When the yacht stops at a mountainous island off the coast of Italy, Anna and Sandro get into an argument which pushes Anna to separate herself from the group. When they are about to leave the small rocky island, Anna is nowhere to be found. Claudia is determined to find her best friend Anna, so Sandro and Anna stay overnight while the wealthy yacht tourists return to the mainland to alert the coast guard.
Almost instantly, Sandro is making advances on Claudia even though she tries to reject his embraces (even a kiss). When the wealthy return to the island the next morning with the coast guard, Anna is still missing and all hope seems lost... but a few boats were seen passing by the day of Anna's disappearance suggesting that she may have been kidnapped.
The story of the lost woman begins to make headlines everywhere (simply because a story so mysterious sells newspapers quickly), and Claudia and Sandro begin following clues as to where Anna is rumored to have been seen throughout Italy. However, as the film progresses and Claudia becomes willingly romantically involved with Sandro, the pursuit of Anna leaves the plot of the film almost completely. Claudia even fears that Anna may still be alive.
This film is a haunting tale of isolation and moral, but it is also a perplexing look at human interaction and the presence of wealth in society.
Claudia, in comparison to everyone else in the film, was not raised in a wealthy household. Her views on life and the world around her are grounded upon the existence of morals. In comparison to Sandro and the wealthy yacht riders, Claudia follows her heart and intellect where as the others pursue what is easy and ideal. Sandro essentially forgets about Anna as he pursues the easily accessible Claudia, and the wealthy yacht riders begin to joke about Anna being dead only days after everyone returns from sea.
Interestingly, everyone in the film is pursuing an ideal. A woman cheats on her husband with a young artist who seems sexually ideal. The young artist only paints nudes of women (something he finds ideal). Similarly hordes of men flock the streets over the sight of a woman who has a rip in the hem of her skirt (so many men are in the streets that a traffic jam ensues and the police have to escort the girl to safety). All of those men, whether wealthy, middle class, or poor flood the streets in pursuit of the ideal woman. The man who pursues Claudia, Sandro, sees Claudia as an ideal. The only character who is not struggling to pursue "the ideal" is Claudia. Arguably, she does desire love and honesty (exhibited as she asks Sandro if he loves her), but that is a natural desire.
Beautifully filmed, there are moments of L'Avventura where the world around the characters almost seems to be a character (or a mirror facing the lives of the characters). Collapsing buildings in big cities could easily be the descent of morality among the wealthy, and the rocky island that Anna disappears on could simply be a metaphor for the rocky relationship between Anna and Sandro.
This film could easily (in a loose fashion) be called a 1960 Italian prequel to Fincher's 2011 adaptation of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (as it deals with similar wealthy figures and the disappearance of a woman on a distant secluded island). Both films are very beautiful, and the landscape ads an atmosphere to the films that reflects the lives of the characters.
L'Avventura is the ultimate thriller without a resolution (often without thrills as well), and a film that calls upon viewers willing to examine the lives of people and themselves. Antonioni is masterful in this meditative work which can be seen from so many different perspectives and on so many different levels, and is for that reason (and its gorgeous visuals) that the film still lives as a fantastic narrative and the film that arguably changed and impacted the art of cinematography forever.
My ranking: 5/5 stars