Watching Antonioni's Il Grido

Il Grido (The Cry) 
Directed by M. Antonioni
Starring Steve Cochran, Alida Valli, Dorian Gray
I wouldn't say I enjoy Antonioni's films. I find his heroes so depressing, and, also, his style so avant garde. I think his films are not meant to be enjoyed in the popular sense, but to mark their spot through the highly personalised style of their maker; just as most of (post) Modernism. This divorce between enjoyment and modernism is something I find unfortunate.

However, this film was not that idiosyncratic. Shot before the trilogy that made Antonioni a well-known avant garde director, it is also different in another aspect: it focuses on a working class environment.

The main character, a mechanic in rural northern Italy, has his life turned upside down when his long-time lover asks him to break up. He picks up their little daughter and leaves his job and his hometown and starts wandering aimlessly in the cold winter of the Po Valley.

Unable to get over the break up, he leaves behind him a trail of short, broken erotic encounters, till he returns to his hometown where a tragic end unfolds. 

Antonioni's point of view, more evident in his later films, is present here too. The dislocation caused by economic development and technological advances, modern man's alienation, and their inability to find meaning in their lives and commit themselves to it are not characteristics of post war Italy only, which experienced rapid economic development in the first post war decades, but of today too.

The misty, empty, wintry landscape of poor, rural Italy provides an excelent canvas for the portrayal of a wandering, lost soul, and Antonioni's directing, with the long, uncut shots, takes full advantage of it. The film is also a very good portrait of the spectrum of human erotic relationships -and Antonioni's pessimism too- where at the end, almost nobody is happy with the circumstances of their lives.

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