From the Red Carpet: Film trailer footage from Red Desert.
Michelangelo Antonioni / Italy/France / 1964 / 120 mins
Can the industrial world really be ‘more beautiful than the outline of trees’ as Italian Modernist director Michelangelo Antonioni once asserted? There are many who might raise a doubtful eyebrow at such a suggestion. Yet to watch Antonioni’s first colour effort Red Desert is to be almost convinced. The film tells the story of Giuliana (Monica Vitti), the wife of a petrochemical plant owner, who, after a traumatic car accident, struggles to adapt to life in the heavily industrialised area of Ravenna.
Vitti delivers a strong performance as the mentally fragile Giuliana, while Richard Harris is very well suited as the incorrigibly seductive Corrado Zeller (though at times it’s hard to tell just how good his performance is, seeing as it’s unlikely to be his voice heard onscreen). However, it’s undoubtedly Antonioni’s dazzling, unique aesthetic which makes this film so attractive. The dull, grimy palette is juxtaposed by intense blotches of red, yellow and blue, painting the fragmentation of Guiliana’s psyche. The vast swathes of dense, scudding fog demonstrate her emotional isolation and engulfment anxieties, whilst the sheer radiance of the story sequence becomes a wish-fulfilment dream of returning to an organic state of being. In fact, so vivid are the films visuals, Red Desert probably wouldn’t look too out of place playing on loop in the Tate Modern.
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