Cast & Crew
In Rome, a young translator named Vittoria leaves her lover, Riccardo, and terminates their 4-year relationship. Following several sleepless nights, she visits her widowed mother at the stock exchange. There she meets Piero, her mother's dynamic young broker. Although they have little in common, Vittoria and Piero are nevertheless drawn to each other and fall in love. Mutually disturbed by the suspicion that their affair will not last, they attempt to push their doubts aside by making love. Vittoria visits Piero in his office, and they make plans to meet again that night and for every night thereafter--for as long as their love will endure.
Eraldo Da Roma
Gianni Di Venanzo
Like other modernist filmmakers and artists, Antonioni felt the need to break with the past to capture the changes that had occurred in post-World War II Europe. As people from various classes broke with traditional cultural values, participated in economic progress, and embraced a consumer-based lifestyle, life was not the same as it had been before the war. The classic mode of cinema with its emphasis on simple cause-and-effect storytelling seemed unable to adequately reflect or depict the modern world.
Though Antonioni's style challenged viewers accustomed to the clarity of classical cinema, by 1962, when L'Eclisse was released, fans and followers welcomed his intellectually stimulating films. The Italian director abandoned the clarity, logic, and directness of classical modes of filmmaking, preferring intentionally vague characters in tenuous narratives that remain open-ended and disorienting. He was obsessed with themes of disconnection and dislocation, which he felt epitomized the bourgeoisie in contemporary society. In Antonioni's films, men and women are incapable of connecting in any sincere, meaningful way. Part of the nouveaux middle class, his characters embrace the advantages of the Italian Economic Miracle by living in stylish new apartments, driving sports cars, and pursuing a fast-paced lifestyle. Abandoning traditional ideals and social values, his characters have been blinded by the enormous changes that have occurred in their new world and oblivious to their ramifications, resulting in profound alienation.
Antonioni pursued a recognizable visual style that suited his themes and characters. In his carefully composed long shots, barren and stark locations reflect the sterile emotions of the characters. Sometimes, people are isolated within the mise-en-scene by elements of the architecture or details of the set design. Dead time, in which the characters are absent and no action occurs, adds to the deliberate pacing, which allows viewers to consider the mise-en-scene and to absorb the haunted sense of dislocation suggested by the film's style.
L'Eclisse is considered by critics to be the third film in an unintentional trilogy that includes L'Avventura (1960) and La Notte (1961). Antonioni's rise as an important filmmaker for the era can be traced through the critical and popular reception of the films in this trilogy. L'Avventura was booed at the Cannes International Film Festival when it premiered in 1960, though several prominent directors defended it to the press. When L'Eclisse was released two years later, it won the Special Jury Prize at Cannes and was nominated for the Palme d'or. The following year, Antonioni released Red Desert, considered by many to be his masterpiece.
Antonioni's muse, Italian actress Monica Vitti, starred in all three films of the trilogy. In L'Eclisse, she plays Vittoria, a woman who seems displaced by the new Italy. The episodic narrative unfolds as a series of incidents that don't add up to a tightly structured story with a beginning, middle, and end. As a matter of fact, the film seems to begin with a conclusion and end with an opening scene. The film begins with the romantic break-up of Vittoria and Riccardo, who are emotionally exhausted after spending the night talking about their failed relationship. She visits friends, travels with her social circle, interacts with her mother, who is obsessed with making money via Rome's stock market, and begins a new relationship with her mother's broker, Piero. The famous conclusion of the film is a seven-minute sequence of mostly empty shots of locations shown earlier during Vittoria and Piero's courtship. More akin to an opening sequence in which long shots establish the primary setting, the cryptic, almost abstract conclusion offers no closure regarding Vittoria and Piero's relationship.
Like most of Antonioni's films, the cityscapes and environments in L'Eclisse telegraph the emptiness of the characters and the existential malaise of their lives. Vittoria lives in a suburb of Rome called the EUR, or the Esposizione Universaile di Roma. The EUR was a development of modern-style architecture that Mussolini had envisioned as the site for a world's fair. Never completed, it was reconstructed during the 1950s and used for Olympics-related activities. By the early 1960s, the neighborhood was inhabited by the Italian nouveau bourgeoisie. Vittoria lives in the EUR in a modern-looking building devoid of decorative detail or visual interest. Antonioni depicts her in long shots tightly framed within her window or doorway, visually underscoring her isolation and alienation. An oddly shaped tower is also part of the EUR neighborhood, and it looms in several shots throughout the film. With its bulbous top, the tower looks like a nuclear mushroom cloud, reminding viewers of "the bomb," which was a pervasive threat during the Cold War. That threat is echoed in the extended conclusion in a shot of an anonymous man carrying a newspaper as he steps off a bus. The headline warns of impending nuclear war-just another pressure of the modern era.
In a sequence that current viewers often find uncomfortable, Vittoria visits the home of a friend whose parents own a farm in Kenya. Her family represents the last vestiges of European colonialism. Kenya was struggling for its independence from Great Britain in 1962, and the friend is incensed that native Africans are creating trouble. Her crude racist remarks and complete lack of sympathy for their plight seem to call for another character to challenge her views, but instead, Vittoria dons blackface to perform her version of an African dance. The scene reveals the dark realities of colonialism and its impact on the generations of Europeans who remained alienated from the native peoples of the Third World countries they inhabited.
Alain Delon costars as Piero, the stock broker whom Vittoria takes up after meeting him at the stock exchange where her mother goes to follow her meager investments. During the prosperity of the 1960s, which was dubbed the Italian Economic Miracle, people of the middle class began to play in the market, as represented by Vittoria's mother. The Roman Stock Exchange was constructed in an ancient building that was originally the temple of the Emperor Hadrian. But, none of Rome's illustrious past seems to be part of the activities of the modern stock exchange, a noisy, chaotic place devoted to gambling with other people's money. When the head of the exchange stops for a moment of silence for a recently departed broker, Piero complains that it was a minute that he could have been making money. Delon was a major star when he appeared in L'Eclisse, and his dashing good looks were suited for the self-absorbed Piero. Before his infatuation with Vittoria, he dallied with beautiful call girls, whom he purchased and consumed like any other commodity. If Vittoria seems vaguely unsettled and discontented about her life in contemporary Italy, Piero has no such qualms. He is a part of the modern world, enjoying his high energy job and the financial perks that it makes possible.
Despite their influence on later generations of filmmakers, the films of Antonioni seem almost neglected now, perhaps out of vogue with movie goers captivated by postmodern irony and fast-paced editing, in which shots are on the screen for seconds instead of minutes. If so, then we are the worse for it. His work reflected not only a major change in Italian society but also a profound shift in film culture. His visually driven style and provocative approach to narrative raised the bar of what constituted popular filmmaking, and audiences at the time rose to the occasion to embrace it.
Producer: Robert and Raymond Hakim Director: Michelangelo Antonioni Screenplay: Michelangelo Antonioni and Tonino Guerra with Elio Bartolini and Ottiero Ottieri Cinematography: Gianni Di Venanzo Editor: Eraldo Da Roma Production Designer: Danilo Marciani Set Designer: Piero Poletto Original Music: Giovanni Fusco
Cast: Vittoria (Monica Vitti), Piero (Alain Delon), Riccardo (Francisco Rabal), Vittoria's Mother (Lilla Brignone), Stockbroker (Louis Seigner), Anita (Rossana Rory), Marta (Mirella Ricciardi)
By Susan Doll
Easy to pigeonhole as a typical art film, L'eclisse has actually aged better than its companion films thanks to Antonioni's startling depiction of a society so overloaded on sensation that no one seems to notice its inner core is being whittled away. The isolation depicted here is still frighteningly relevant as technology advances, and one barely needs to connect the dots between the characters here and a society that uses "reality" television to hook up blank clotheshorses with potential, money-hungry spousal candidates. The startling, experimental final minutes not only anticipate the anti-corporate cataclysm at the end of Zabriskie Point but offer a chilling prediction for the state of modern urban existence. If E.M. Forster's oft-quoted "Only connect!" was advice for living before the Baby Boom, Antonioni's philosophy begs for a less demanding "Only acknowledge."
The aesthetically ravishing presentation of L'eclisse is among the best in European cinema, with each image beautifully composed and executed for maximum visual impact; we don't mind the long takes and potent silences when there's so much for the eye to study in each moment. Vitti in particular is magnificent, using her expressive eyes to convey the desperate need to feel that ultimately remains unfulfilled. It's a shame she was put to such poor use in her one major English role, Modesty Blaise; even in fluffy comedies for Alberto Sordi or Tinto Brass she still delivered the goods. Though equally photogenic, Delon has far less heavy lifting to do and basically offers another take on his Tom Ripley persona, which is good enough here but no indication of what happened once he learned to really act. One could perhaps try to read some meaning into the fact that the three romantic leads were all cast from different countries, another touch of cultural alienation that pays off handsomely.
Criterion's double disc of L'avventura is a tough act to follow, but they've at least equaled it with their immaculate transfer here. The image is so luminous and clear it could have been filmed yesterday, making this a far more enjoyable experience than past video editions which relied on substandard, murky transfers. The feature also contains a running audio commentary by the Lincoln Center's Film Society director, Richard Pena, who offers a very dense and interpretive take on the film that certainly offers food for thought even when it doesn't quite seem to jibe with the events onscreen. The second disc features plentiful video extras highlighted by "The Eye that Changed Cinema," an hour-long Antonioni documentary for Italian TV complete with plentiful behind the scenes footage and interviews. It's an insightful and very fast-paced peek into his directorial style that ultimately leaves the viewer hungry for more. The 24-minute "Elements of Landscape" features Italian critic Adriano Apra and Antonioni collaborator Carlo di Carlo discussing the director's work, while the hefty insert booklet packs in 35 pages of critical analysis from Jonathan Rosenbaum, Gilberto Perez, and Antonioni himself. Most useful of all, you can finally learn the origins of the film's mysterious, seemingly symbolic title.
For more information about L'Eclisse, visit the Criterion Collection. To order L'Eclisse, go to TCM Shopping.
by Nathaniel Thompson
Filmed in Rome and Verona. Opened in Rome in April 1962 as L'eclisse; running time: 125 min; in Paris in August 1962 as L'éclipse; running time: 121 min. Cannes Film Festival (1962) length: 130 min.
Co-winner of the Special Jury Prize and winner of the Catholic Film Office Award at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival.
Released in United States May 1962
Shown at Cannes Film Festival May 1962.
Re-released in Paris March 28, 1990.
Shot in Autumn 1961.
Released in United States May 1962 (Shown at Cannes Film Festival May 1962.)