L’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 mother’s dynamic, ambitious stockbroker, Piero (Alain Delon).  That, essentially is the plot.

It’s the last in director Michelangelo Antonioni’s loose trilogy (L’Avventura, La Notte) exploring the difficulty of personal communication in the modern, consumerist world – whether that is the 1962 of the original or some fifty-odd years on with this digital restoration.

At the start, it’s dawn and two people are in a room; she’s pacing and he’s watching her. It is silent because there’s obviously nothing left to say, and anyway, his thought bubble couldn’t be clearer: ‘what’s going on in her head?’ and hers, ‘why can’t he see?’

At the end, there is a full ten minutes of pure cinematography.  The protagonists are absent, and the pictures roll slowly across the landscape, revisiting all the empty, silent places they had once been. It’s atmospheric, it’s dehumanising. There’s an element of suspension – it’s potentially apocalyptic – but nothing happens, and that’s surely the point: life goes on around us, whether we’re in scene or not.

That is surely Antonioni’s skill – the identification and filming of the minutiae of context, of the fragmentation of the world – that has such an effect on us, and on our relationships, whether we realise it or not.  The black and white film (Antonioni’s last in monochrome) and all the greys in between add to the sense of the abstract.

Discussing L’Eclisse, Jose Moure, Antonioni’s biographer, defends (rightly) the film from being boring but concedes that it’s awkward (which some might mistake for boring).  It is awkward; deliberately so.  A sense of not-unpleasant unease stayed with me for a long while after watching, in fact it’s with me as I write now… And that’s what makes the film so fascinating.

If Banksy ever wants a filmic backdrop  to his Dismaland, L’Eclisse is it.


greyscale l'EclisseItalian with subtitles/Certificate PG/126 mins

Showing at the Filmhouse, Lothian Road (4-10 Sept) and the Cameo Cinema (27 Sept)

Available on blu-ray & DVD 28 Sept 2015.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *