Lâ€™Eclisse (The Eclipse) is the story of a couple in crisis. Vittoria (Monica Vittie) leaves her older lover, Riccardo, (Francisco Rabal) and drifts into a relationship with her motherâ€™s dynamic, ambitious stockbroker, Piero (Alain Delon).Â That, essentially is the plot.
Itâ€™s the last in director Michelangelo Antonioniâ€™s loose trilogy (Lâ€™Avventura, La Notte) exploring the difficulty of personal communication in the modern, consumerist world â€“ whether that is the 1962 of the original or some fifty-odd years on with this digital restoration.
At the start, itâ€™s dawn and two people are in a room; sheâ€™s pacing and heâ€™s watching her. It is silent because thereâ€™s obviously nothing left to say, and anyway, his thought bubble couldnâ€™t be clearer: â€˜whatâ€™s going on in her head?â€™ and hers, â€˜why canâ€™t he see?â€™
At the end, there is a full ten minutes of pure cinematography.Â The protagonists are absent, and the pictures roll slowly across the landscape, revisiting all the empty, silent places they had once been. Itâ€™s atmospheric, itâ€™s dehumanising. Thereâ€™s an element of suspension â€“ itâ€™s potentially apocalyptic â€“ but nothing happens, and thatâ€™s surely the point: life goes on around us, whether weâ€™re in scene or not.
That is surely Antonioniâ€™s skill â€“ the identification and filming of the minutiae of context, of the fragmentation of the world â€“ that has such an effect on us, and on our relationships, whether we realise it or not.Â The black and white film (Antonioniâ€™s last in monochrome) and all the greys in between add to the sense of the abstract.
DiscussingÂ Lâ€™Eclisse, Jose Moure, Antonioni’s biographer, defends (rightly) the film from being boring but concedes that itâ€™s awkward (which some might mistake for boring).Â It is awkward; deliberately so.Â A sense of not-unpleasant unease stayed with me for a long while after watching, in fact itâ€™s with me as I write now… And thatâ€™s what makes the film so fascinating.
If Banksy ever wants a filmic backdropÂ Â to his Dismaland, Lâ€™Eclisse is it.
Showing at the Filmhouse, Lothian Road (4-10 Sept) and the Cameo Cinema (27 Sept)
Available on blu-ray & DVD 28 Sept 2015.