Michelangelo Antonioni’s famous black and white trilogy of films made in the early 1960s starts with L’avventura of 1960. It was made in black and white and has become one of the classics of Italian cinema, influencing future generations of film makers. The film is set in the striking visual landscape of Sicily, and exotic place, even for most Italians, characterised by rocky scenery against which the film’s young characters appear out of place and somehow disconnected from their everyday lives. This place of so-called “adventure” which could be also translated as “affair” is at the same time attractive, and somehow threatening, because it is a location of mystery and loss. The plot centres around a character called Anna who suddenly goes missing, and the narrative revolves around this central event without explaining how or why she has disappeared or resolving the question of what happened to her. This lack of a satisfactory traditional storyline forces the viewer to concentrate on the present moment, the moods of the characters, the stunning scenery, and what it all really means. This paper explores the intentions of the film to critique social, cultural and economic changes that were taking place in Italy just after the second world war, with particular reference to gender relations within the bourgeoisie.
The fate of Italy after the second world war was economically good, since rapid industrialisation brought prosperity and a new openness to modern influences from northern Europe.
Culturally, however, there were a number of challenges, not least in the adjustment from fascism to a new capitalist free market economy and the lingering influence of conservative forces like the Catholic Church. Italy was not immune to the student disturbances of the 1960s demanding a more liberal curriculum, and socio-political movements like feminism and free love across the Western world. These tensions were exacerbated by an unequal distribution of wealth between the industrial north of Italy and the rural south, including Sicily, where old traditions like the organized crime of the mafia were regaining power. Economic indicators boomed but at the same time waves of protest emerged, largely due to “a failure of the institutions to adjust adequately to the pace of change brought by the miracle” (Dunnage, 2002, p. 148) L’avventura is a film about dislocation, in other words it depicts people who find themselves in unfamiliar territory both in terms of what happens to them, and how they feel about it. The familiar fixed points of time and space are confused: “the disappearance of Anna… creates in a more subtle way a similar temporal disruption: for the subsequent narrative falls under the shadow of an indeterminacy that renders “before” and “after” problematic.” (Restivo: 2002, p. 125) Sicily is a prehistoric landscape, marked by natural features and inexplicable natural phenomena about which the urban characters are completely ignorant. It is as if Anna’s disappearance is a metaphor for Italy’s loss of innocence and youth in the mad rush to take advantage of modernity and all its artificial, manufactured benefits. Anna returns to a rural extreme of Italy, at the boundary between earth and sea, and her disappearance there causes hardly any impact to the environment or to the characters in the film. In fact her two friends embark upon a romantic relationship as if she had never been present! This indifference is a critique of Italy’s materialism which is as barren and heartless as the rocky landscape all around. Bondanella points out also how element of alienation echoes European philosophical ideas of the time, such as existentialism, where people lose faith , in traditional supports like religion, family, or