The Death of Love in Michelangelo Antonioni’s La Notte

The Death of Love in Michelangelo Antonioni's La Notte
The Death of Love in Michelangelo Antonioni’s La Notte

The warning signs are obvious from the start. At the beginning of Michelangelo Antonioni’s La Notte, novelist Giovanni (Marcello Mastroianni) and his wife, Lidia (Jeanne Moreau), are visiting a friend in the hospital. Tommaso (Bernhard Wicki), who is dying of terminal cancer, expresses how he no longer has the energy to put on a show of interest to their circle of friends. He’s delighted to spend time with these two, but please, no other visitors. “It’s amazing how tired you get of pretending at a certain point,” Tommaso says. When faced with the prospect of death, who has time to act as if they don’t give a shit? Life is far too short at the end, and far too long before that.

Lidia walks out of the hospital rather abruptly as a result of this conversation, eventually breaking down in tears almost as soon as she steps outside. We don’t know why the encounter has had such an impact on her, aside from the obvious emotional toll of seeing a friend in such distress, but we’ll find out more about what’s bothering her soon. Instead of pursuing his upset wife, Giovanni is drawn into a hospital encounter with another patient—an ailing young woman who drags him into her room and forces herself on him. “Forces” might be a bit strong a word, as Giovanni clearly glows with desire at the prospect of exploiting this troubled woman.

Giovanni is overcome with guilt as he drives away from the hospital and confesses the affair to Lidia. Instead of admitting his complicity, his active participation and manipulation of this young woman’s ailment for his own carnal pleasure, he tells Lidia that he was attacked and overwhelmed—he had no choice, according to his account. Giovanni is surprised that his wife is not upset by the news. If anything, she appears irritated that he felt the need to tell her. He doesn’t realise that this isn’t a surprise to her. She recognised the young woman as they walked into the hospital, and she knows who her husband is at this point in their marriage. She’s already surrendered.

This is followed by a lengthy section of the film in which Lidia travels through Milan on foot. Who better to convey the essence of Lidia’s character than that great cinematic wanderer Moreau? On the lives, she could have had, and the individuals she feels no connection to but longs to connect with. She sees people huddled together, construction workers grabbing a bite to eat, children launching rockets in a field, and men toiling away in their homes. Lidia longs to be a part of the action out here, but Antonioni’s awareness of modern disconnection keeps her a long way away from it all. Antonioni

Antonioni connects us to Milan through his constant focus on the city’s architecture. In the opening credits, a skyscraper serves as a backdrop for the opening credits. As we sweep along its outside during the titles, we see the city that Lidia would soon explore in its reflection. This 1958 skyscraper was the only one in Milan at the time. It is via this contemplative characteristic that Lidia uses the world around her to contemplate her own existence and the nagging feeling that she has become just another facet of the metropolis.

While strolling through Milan, Lidia comes across a series of pillars that rise up from the ground at waist height. An old woman slumped over, stands in the place of a post as she begins her game of evading the posts. It’s as if this woman is a post itself, a solid item that is part of the city just like any of the buildings she passes by. Lidia gazes back at the elderly woman as she departs the area with a sigh of regret. Will she grow up to be a woman like this? Is she already a dead item, merely a means to an end?
The modern architecture throughout the city mirrors the sterile facade of her marriage—the routine of a society where people don’t say what they mean, don’t express their feelings and are constantly lying to one another and to themselves. Her marriage is a reflection of the city’s facade. Once Lidia has left this part of town, she moves on to other decrepit areas. Buildings that appear to have been damaged during the war are dilapidated, weathered, peeling, and decaying. These areas of the city, like Lidia’s, are still existing and will remain in their current location for the foreseeable future, but they have been desecrated by time. Neither of them can be repaired. While the world around Antonioni’s main character is a reflection of the audience’s perception of her, it also serves as a mirror for her own inner thoughts and feelings.

We are the observers of the observers at La Notte, where Lidia is the constant observer. Giovanni and Lidia attend a large villa party with their upper-class acquaintances in the second half of the film. The two are quickly separated and spend the night experiencing things that represent where they have come to in their lives. As a result, Lidia spends much of her time wandering and reflecting on her own personal desperation, which is emphasised by her voyeuristic observations of the other guests at the party. She passes an elderly man who is holding a young woman in an awkward position against a wall as she makes her way through the crowds. That answer isn’t good enough for me, so I’m going to ask you something else.” “Well… maybe,” she hears the woman respond. Is this something she and Giovanni have discussed in the past?

And her husband? He’s out with a much younger woman, as we’d anticipate. The party’s host’s daughter, Valentina (Monica Vitti), is a confident, headstrong participant who Giovanni becomes enamoured with as Lidia wanders around like a ghost in the corridors. During La Notte’s climax, these swirling thoughts about the state of each character’s existence are brought to a head by this dynamic. Lidia no longer reflects Giovanni’s desire for vitality, excitement, and spontaneity, thus Valentina is the only person he can turn to for those things. So much so that Antonioni dresses them both in black clothes and haircuts that resemble each other’s former selves, Lidia and Valentina.

Lidia and Valentina don’t regard each other as adversaries in Antonioni’s La Notte, a high point in his career of producing actualized female characters and using the female gaze. Instead of waging a stalemate, they acknowledge their status in the patriarchal culture they live in. Valentina and Lidia have a mutual understanding of what the other will become. Lidia, who has been resigned to Giovanni’s indiscretion from the beginning of the film, does not lash out. In an earlier party scene, Giovanni and a woman who calls herself his biggest admirer in Italy both expressed resignation. Despite her admiration for both her brains and her disposition, she says she’d love to hear the storey of an unhappy woman who falls head over heels for a man she doesn’t love. As for the resolution, she asks Giovanni, “How would a storey like that end?” only to give her own answer in which she suggests that the lady sacrifices her own happiness for the happiness of another woman.

It’s debatable whether or not Valentina receives “happiness” from Giovanni, yet she and Lidia seem to be one and the same. One of their few moments alone, Lidia tells her, “You don’t know how the years drag you down and nothing makes any sense. Tonight, I feel like I’m going to die. I genuinely believe that. Once the suffering is over, “new things can begin.”

In the event Giovanni hears this, Lidia makes it clear to him that she is not jealous of what she said. Despite the fact that she understands who and what her spouse is, she has lost her will to resist. There may have been in the past, but not any more. She’s merely an elderly woman with a hunch, as inconsequential as a waist-high pillar to the structure.
For a director like Antonioni, who is known for his aloofness and alienation, La Notte is an understated film even by his standards. As far as I can tell, he has no plans to use conversation to reveal his characters’ innermost thoughts and feelings. Instead, he lets the images and performances he creates convey their true essence, as well as his insatiable curiosity in the world around them. It’s telling that the majority of this villa’s walls are made of glass. The characters can see each other as Lidia walks the house and Giovanni and Valentina perform a dance of temptation back and forth. Their gaze is obstructed by the glass between them. But you can’t get in, because you’re behind a glass door. It’s just a trick of the light. In truth, it merely serves to separate people, giving them time to think about who they are.

In the end, the truth about the primary pair is revealed—not through showmanship but rather through heartbreaking admissions and hard realities. Lidia and Giovanni are finally alone as they walk away from the celebration and the city’s alienating architecture. This is where they finally, completely expose their brokenness, emptiness, and hopelessness to the world. In the wake of her revealing to Giovanni that Tomasso had died overnight, Lidia tells Giovanni that Tomasso believed that Lidia had strength and knowledge that she did not possess. In fact, he was so certain of it that she began to believe him as well. While her husband could only speak about himself, he instilled in her a sense of self-worth and worthiness that her husband never could. Despite this, she was never able to feel the same way about Tomasso.
Lidia takes out a note from her purse and reads it to her husband as they sit next to one other. a man who’d just spent the night with her wrote a great poem about how he was staring at her while she was sleeping, overcome by this miraculous moment and their connection together. He had a strong sense that she was now a part of him and that he had her all to himself. In this scene, the audience and Giovanni had a distinct feeling that Tomasso was the one who sent her the letter. Her spouse wonders, “Who wrote that?” when she finishes reading. Her razor-sharp retort was, “You did.”

To show Lidia that he still cares for her after all of his failed attempts to win her over, Giovanni attacks her with his hands and kisses her even though she is clearly distressed. It is clear that she no longer adores him: “No, I no longer love you. In the same way, you don’t care about me. “Be silent,” he tells her in a single sentence. The tension that has been maintained throughout the film is finally shattered in the final seconds by Antonioni. He is a miserable, self-obsessed man who is always eager for the next item to satisfy his insatiable ego; a lady whose years he has taken away and who he has continually confined to the point where she believes there is no recourse and nothing left.
Camera fatigue sets in after two hours of staring at Moreau’s sad face and strolling through the ruins of the life she wished she had. Antonioni pans away as Lidia continues to resist, and Giovanni remains resolute that this is what love appears to look like.