The Night (La notte)

The Night

Is that all in life?

This, in all accounts, should have been a slam dunk for me. La Notte features Marcello Mastroianni, probably the most iconic of all Italian actors, and is directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, who I’ve gotten quite the appreciation for. Combined, there should have been no reason for me not to love La Notte… but, here I am, having sat through two hours of quiet contemplation courtesy of Antonioni, and I’m not fully sure I have anything to show for it. The main problem I’ve run into is this: La Notte doesn’t bring anything to the table that Antonioni doesn’t bring up in other, better films. Sure, some of those other ones were made after this one, but it begs the question why this was still remembered or continued to hold high esteem among cinephiles if Antonioni’s later work essentially made this one a redundant exercise in his filmography.

Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau are husband and wife, where Mastroianni is a successful writer and Moreau a socializer. The film explores how dissatisfied with their lives they are, and how run-ins with other potential partners eventually get them to confront each other about their mutual lost attraction. Much like the other films in this trilogy of Antonioni’s, L’Avventura and L’Eclisse, La Notte isn’t really about the plot; the plot is only there to serve as an instigator to get the characters to express their inner emotions and thoughts, so that the film can explore what it really wants to explore: the human condition. Now, if this sounds familiar to you, you’re not out of line; this is essentially the same subject explored in the other two films in Antonioni’s trilogy. So what does La Notte have that the others don’t? Honestly, not very much. The acting is okay, mostly only so because the players are acting out depression and ennui, and thus rarely give off any outright emotion whatsoever. As for the technicals, I was a little let down in the cinematography department; Antonioni doesn’t get as adventurous and artistic with his camera here as he does in L’Avventura or L’Eclisse, which makes for one less reason to sit through this one. Really, I was looking for reasons to watch this film, and ended up writing off reasons that were in Antonioni’s other films that weren’t found here, which isn’t exactly an encouraging thing to do when critiquing a film.

Before I started this one, I went back and reread all my reviews on Antonioni’s other list films, both to refresh my opinion of the director and to get a better handle on what this film would have to offer, since this is essentially the middle film of a loose trilogy. I’m pretty glad I did, otherwise I would’ve been even more disappointed than I already was. Again, that’s not to say that La Notte is a bad film; it’s just an entirely too superfluous one from Antonioni. The subject of the dissatisfaction of the well-to-dos of Italian society is an okay one, but not one to spend three whole films on, and with the first and the last being far better in terms of power, skill, and craftsmanship, this one just serves as a bridge film and nothing more. Not even Marcello Mastroianni could overcome the dour depression that is all-too-encompassing with this film, which is all well and good if the film wants to explore that topic, but like I’ve said in the past, it doesn’t make for very entertaining viewing. If you have yet to see an Antonioni film, you might be best starting off with this one, both because it still is a well done film and for one other reason; it gets better from this point on.

Arbitrary Rating: 7/10

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