100 YEARS OF MICHELANGELO ANTONIONI

Professor Otakar Vavra introduced me to Michelangelo Antonioni’s aesthetics and directing while I was studying at the FAMU in Prague. In a certain way, Vavra transferred onto us his first-hand knowledge which he received by spending time with Antonioni during his stay in Prague. Now, I am immensely pleased that we have the opportunity to celebrate “100 Years- Tribute to Michelangelo Antonioni” with a special programme; by this we are celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the birth of one of the most significant authors of modern cinema and art.

We will be showing 16 of Antonioni’s short and full length feature films. Among them will also be Gente del Po, Antonioni’s first documentary which suggests neorealism. Antonioni stated then: “I am beginning to understand the world through image; I understand the strength of the image and its mystery.” an understanding that can be seen in all of his works. In all of his films, Antonioni leans towards pronounced visuality and image. His visuality has certain transcendence, a pronounced ability to create images and all significance of his films can be found in those images. Antonioni is the director who created his own universe which differs from the rest of cinematography. Antonioni does not just show his point of the view, he goes further than that and creates his own world.

During the filming of the Cronacca d’una donna, the director who spoke of the incompetence of human communication said: “I have to see the characters, even while they’re doing the simplest gestures, after everything has been said, after all the lines our dried out, and when there is nothing left in the souls except the consequence of the things that have come to pass.”

All of Antonioni’s films talk about love, and almost all of them about the impossibility of love. We are showing films L’eclisse, La note, and L’avventura in which Antonioni reveals a new directing style he began in the film Il grido. In L’avventura he goes further from the narration and the characters, the surrounding and location are equally important. Antonioni called it “the background” of his films, those are not locations but surroundings in which he puts his actors and which give all the elements necessary for character definition.

L’avventura was declared as one of the most influential films of the 20th century (after Welles’ Citizen Kane), and which will later influence on directors like Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, and Francis Ford Coppola. It is a drama about human loneliness and it points out a daring concept of a dramatic composition; the combination of dancing and actors’ interplay, of waves and surroundings in which they find themselves and in which they move. In the film L’Eclisse we are witnesses to a suggestive ending of a film scene- with brilliant plastic and figurative solutions. In one of the most memorable final scenes in film history we see how Antonioni perceives and deals with space in his own way. During the filming of L’eclisse Antonioni shoots a total eclipse of the sun in Florence and describes the essence of the film: “I went to Florence to see and to shoot the total eclipse. Suddenly it was very cold. And then the silence completely different from all other silences. Light on earth, completely different from all other lights. And then the dark. Total silence. And the only thing I was thinking in that moment was how even feelings cease to exist during the eclipse.” In this film, Antonioni is portraying urban beauty, Rome as we have never seen before.

In the film Il deserto rosso Antonioni deals with the fundamental question: “In a desert of great industrial surroundings- what colour are our feelings?” Il deserto rosso is a radical experiment with colour and sound. In Antonioni’s perception, the industrial surroundings in Ravenna are far more beautiful than the dying pines- those industrial surroundings are saying that the human being has left a mark of its existence. Antonioni refuses to use the classical soundtrack, he usually uses music whose source can be seen, like for example in the film La note in which he skilfully placed most of the film’s action in a party where a jazz band is playing and thus serving as a sound background to the film. Antonioni thought that music in the film should be ridden of its autonomy as an artistic form and be given a role as a part of one big whole. The ideal thing would be to create a sound background with noises and sounds which would form the soundtrack. It would be played by an orchestra led by a conductor.

Michelangelo Antonioni, student of the Centre Sperimentale di Cinemtografia, assistant director to the genius Marcel Carne, co-writer with Visconti and De Santis, a film critic and a brilliant director. The author that shot everything that was happening between the actions, not just the action itself. The author that portrayed what happens in the moments of silence and left the images to talk for themselves. Antonioni is the author with exceptionally rare coherency in the film history and filmmaking. Completely devoted and loyal to his ideas in his entire creative process. The author that thought that films should not be shot for the audience, nor to earn money, nor fame but that they just need to be done as best as possible. Film was not entertainment for Antonioni but a portrayal of a certain reality which carries different rhythms; different moments in life have different rhythms which are sometimes dynamic and sometimes static. Because of this we cannot go around the static moments in life: “If a film deals with reality, our reality, reality in which we live in, then we have to take the rhythm of that reality into consideration.” Antonioni’s associates talked about his gift of youth, vitality and modernity, about somebody who was interested in all aspects of society, fascinated with the modern life and world and who also sees and films the beauty of that world, especially the urban one and the beauty of urban architecture.

In December of 1985, Antonioni said in one interview: “The so-called `film idiom`and the so called `television idiom` will end up coming together. On the one hand, we see large movie theaters being broken into many small ones and screens, once huge becoming very much smaller. On the other, we see television screens becoming larger and larger. So when the screens in our homes and the movie screens become the same size, there will be no need to separate the expressive needs of television from those of films, because they´ll be the same. The exploitation of films will be the same, both in our homes and in our theatres. Our purpose will still be to make films, because that’s what they´ll have to show.”

The author who was farsighted and open for all achievements that will be tied to film art and distribution, the author ahead of its time, who was often misunderstood. Woody Allen said on one occasion: “The best ideas are fifteen minutes ahead of their time. Ideas that are light years ahead are simply ignored.” Antonioni was ahead of his time and many young filmmakers today should learn about dignity through this great persona of cinematography and his commitment to the style of filming. “Life is beautiful because it’s unpredictable.” (Michelangelo Antonioni) Meet the world of Michelangelo Antonioni at the screenings of his films with which we are honoured to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of his birth.

Sergej Stanojkovski Ma.Art, Avvantura Film Festival Director and Founder