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Film / La notte

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La notte is a 1961 film by Michelangelo Antonioni.

It features Marcello Mastroianni as Giovanni Pantano, a famous writer, and Jeanne Moreau as his wife Lidia. It is a portrait of a failing marriage and people who have grown apart from each other, seen over a single day as the Pantanos go out and about, visiting a terminally ill friend, going to a fancy party. While the inattentive Giovanni enjoys his high-society lifestyle and looks for a younger woman to have an affair with, the much more sensitive Lidia is undergoing an emotional crisis.

Monica Vitti stars as Valentina Gherardini, the daughter of Giovanni's potential boss. Giovanni and Lidia's friend, the one dying of cancer, is played by Bernhard Wicki, who also directed The Bridge. The film is set in Milan. La Notte is the second installment in the trilogy of alienation succeeding to L'Avventura and preceeding L'eclisse.

La notte was shot by the cinematographer Gianni di Venanzo. The film received a Golden Bear in Berlin Film Festival in 1961.


  • All Take and No Give: Giovanni Pantano is a taker while his wife Lidia is a giver.
  • Bathtub Scene: Emphasizes the Dead Sparks in the relationship, as Giovanni shows no interest in the sight of his stunning naked wife getting out of the bathtub.
  • Betty and Veronica: Lidia is Veronica and Valentina is Betty. The former is sulky and disaffected the latter energetic and enthusiastic. Both are brunettes though.
  • Big Fancy House: That of the party host, Mr. Gherardini.
  • The Cameo: Famous author Umberto Eco shows up as a guest at the party.
  • Cats Are Superior: Invoked by two party goers who see a cat contemplating a statue.
  • Dead Sparks: The Movie. Culminating in the last scene where Lidia says "I don't love you anymore." She barely reacts when seeing her husband kiss Valentina.
  • The Disease That Shall Not Be Named: The disease of which Tommaso is dying is never named, although it's obviously cancer.
  • Downer Beginning: The film starts with Giovanni and Lidia's friend Tommaso writhing in agony in a hospital bed, terminally ill from cancer.
  • Dull Surprise: That's how Lidia reacts to a fairly violent public fight between two youngsters.
  • Dutch Angle: Di Venanzo often shoots Jeanne Moreau this way both from height and from below to show Lidia's growing sense of malaise with her marriage to Giovanni.
  • Establishing Character Moment: We learn a lot about Giovanni when a mentally ill young woman lures him into her room and starts trying to have sex with him—and he goes along with it, and is on top of her on the bed when the nurses come in. All the while Giovanni's wife Lidia is waiting outside the building.
  • Extreme Libido: An obviously insane girl placed in a room on the same floor as Giovanni's dying friend. She attaracts Giovanni into her room. He reacts ambivalently, never taking any intiative but obeying her.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: It spans over less than 24 hours unlike all other Italian films by Antonioni including the other "alienation" films (L'Avventura, L'eclisse, Red Desert). The same trope is reinforced with Blowup.
  • Fanservice Extra: The black striptease dancer whom Giovanni and Lidia watch in a nightclub serves little narrative purpose besides being attractive and scantily dressed.
  • The General's Daughter: Valentina Gherardini, the millionaire's daughter.
  • Good Morning, Crono: Subverted, as Garrani is first shown as if he wakes in his bed. However, it is a hospital bed and he is attended by a nurse and dying from an unnamed disease.
  • Love Letter: Written by Giovanni Pontano to Lydia in the days of their love. Now he has forgotten that it was authored by him.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Valentina acts like one to Giovanni, seemingly trying to shake him out of the state of ennui into which he has fallen in his professional and personal lives, but after spending the evening flirting with him, she admits she doesn't want to break up his marriage.
  • Maybe Ever After: Giovanni and Lidia don't separate by the end of the film, but they haven't done anything to close the growing distance between themselves.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Giovanni is an acclaimed author.
  • The Oner: The first shot of the film is a panoramic view of Milan shown from the descending elevator.
  • Only One Name: Interestingly subverted as opposed to the flanking films. Several characters have both a name and a surname, including protagonists Giovanni and Lidia Pantano, millionaire's daughter Valentina Gherardini, and the Pantanos' terminally ill friend Tommaso Garani.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: Communication between the spouses, Lidia and Giovanni, at times.
  • Pool Scene: At the party at night in the rain.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Mr. Gherardini, the father of Valentina who always behaves decently and speaks politely to Giovanni whom he wants to hire for his own service.
  • Rule of Pool. After the people at Gherardini's fancy party get caught out in the rain, they all go diving in the pool in their fancy party clothes.
  • Shout-Out:
    • One of the books Giovanni finds lying around the house is Herrmann Broch's The Sleepwalkers, which is also about the ennui among the rich aristocratic bourgeosie.
    • The opening scene of the camera tracking down Milan's Pirelli tower is a reference to the end of King Vidor's adaptation of The Fountainhead, in which the finale is a tracking shot of an elevator up to a tower.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Everyone is cynical here.
    • Lidia's cynicism is of rather desperate brand but she still is cynical.
    • Monica Vitti too playes a cynical variation of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Her character is as cynical as a young millionaire's daughter can be.
  • Socialite: A whole party of them actually.
  • The Stoic: Lidia is always underreacting when Giovanni is ignoring her emotional needs.
  • Tritagonist: The third character played by Monica Vitti appears only 55 minutes into the film previously nearly exclusively dedicated to the relationshop of two main characters. She receives a fair share of attention until her exit, after which the final minutes deal with two main characters again.
  • Untranslated Title: It is usually referred to as La Notte in English.
  • Visual Innuendo: As Lydia walks home, she encounters groups of two men each: one engaged in a bloody brawl, and another setting off rockets. In both cases, the men are watched by other men, and they're also visually symbolic of the sex Lydia isn't getting (or giving).
  • You Can Leave Your Hat On: The stripper leaves on both bra and panties. Played with in that the stripper's performance looks more like an acrobatic dance than a striptease.