Monday, 24 October 2011

Michelangelo Antonioni's Event Horizon of Negation

Antonioni's three English-speaking movies completed between 1966 and 1975 demonstrate the versatility of the artist at work and without any consideration for criticism or censure. Beginning with "Blow-up" he achieves the positive non-story as it unfolds upon both viewer and critic and both are meant to be puzzled by the absence of meaning. A Wonderlandesque sense of unaccomplishment but still one that we are expected to have felt lifted us somewhat out of the depths of the lives we lead, to mystery, suspense and finally realisation of meaning in its actual meaningless. Do not all viewers pick the tennis ball up at the end and surrender to the absurdity Antonioni is proposing. He has played a trick with our sensibilities by first squeezing them through the rack of arrogance and then mashing them in the certainty of ignorance. Attempting to stretch this sequence of philosophical calibrations in "Zabriskie Point" Antonioni hones the blade even more subtle, to the point where the criticism this film received parcels out the meaning one is intended to observe. Again, we are shown the 'tennis ball' but this time it becomes a reality in the mind of the heroine, and we placate our views that such a scenario is possible, if unlikely, and the course of the film will leave most suitably puzzled. But it is "Blow-up" again, with the key motifs of rebellion, boredom, sex and meaning being played over again to encompass the jaundiced view that we do not achieve our full potential.
With "The Passenger" Antonioni realises the perfection in the utter negation of any semblance to a core truth as seen by the observer. As the Nicholson character ponders taking on the role of the dead 'mystery-man' we follow and sense the inevitable conclusion to his actions. And we are left to ask what difference does it make? The dead man in the hotel room is finalised in the Nicholson character, Locke, but truly already dead is that character who is a man adrift in a world he finds no meaning. His death, or too be correct, the death of his-self becomes the logical extension to both meaning and sense. And Antonioni brings us full circle with the roll of the 'tennis ball' but the problem is by then most have taken their eye of the ball. Pity.

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