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Film / The Passenger

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The Girl: People disappear everyday...
David Locke: ...every time you leave the room.

The Passenger (Italian title Professione: Reporter) is a 1975 film by Michelangelo Antonioni, starring Jack Nicholson as David Locke, Maria Schneider (of Last Tango in Paris fame) as The Girl, and Jenny Runacre as David's wife.

This film depicts a disaffected television journalist David Locke who working in Africa, implied to be Chad, meets a certain David Robertson, a man of obscure occupations but is later revealed to be an Arms Dealer providing weapons to rebels. When the latter dies Locke assumes his identity, and exchanges his with his. This means that for the rest of the world, David Locke the Reporter is dead, while David Robinson still lives and is wanted by authorities to question him about the mysterious death of a reporter and journalist.

Despite his misgivings, such as the fact that Robinson is regularly paid lavish sums, he is regarded as a comrade by some rebels, and the fact that he's selling weapons, he starts embracing his role, simply because he doesn't want to go back to his old life. Locke travels in Europe, on his way he meets The Girl who becomes his loyal sidekick. Following on from the effects of the dead man, Locke goes to Spain. David's wife meanwhile burdened by guilt and grief starts looking for "Robinson" while the African government who is opposed by the rebels Locke has now cast his lot with, wants to hunt him down as well.



  • Chekhov's Gunman: We first see The Girl on a park bench in London, long before Locke meets her in Barcelona.
  • Epic Tracking Shot: The penultimate shot in the film is a classical example of that. This famous shot includes the camera virtually passing through the bars on the windows from inside the room in the outside.
  • Faking the Dead: What Jack Nicholson's character does when a man named Robertson whom he incidentally met in one African country dies.
  • The Hero Dies: Locke gets killed by people who assumed he was Robertson.
  • Job Title: Professione: Reporter, the Italian title, lampshades this trop. David Locke is the titular reporter who drops his profession because he is fed up with his life.
  • Killed Offscreen: Locke's assassination takes place off-screen while the camera is busy capturing the events outside the hotel.
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  • Meaningful Name: Locke is a famous English XVII-century philosopher.
  • Mockstery Tale: The film imitates the stylistics of a thriller road movie (a stolen identity, political intrigues, car chases, a young mysterious girl, etc.), but is actually a story of a depressed journalist trying to start a new life.
  • Moral Luck: Jack Nicholson's character decides he wants to leave his old life behind, and takes on the identity of an acquaintance who has just died. As it turns out, the acquaintance was an arms dealer running guns to rebel forces in north Africa, so that's what he starts doing. The overall point of the film seems to be a nihilistic one: it doesn't really matter what one does in life, and one shouldn't be bound by social roles or expectations. However, it's clear that the audience is supposed to sympathise with the rebels whom Nicholson's character is supporting. So while he appears not to care about the social consequences of his actions, he is still doing something good — or at least something not evil. It would be harder to see this character as heroic if he were running guns to neo-Nazis or the Taliban — even though he could just as easily have found himself doing just that!
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Jack Nicholson's character is very obviously a reporter, a television-journalist and a documentary film-maker. The film Antonioni made before The Passenger was a documentary in Mao's China during the Cultural Revolution.
  • No Name Given: Maria Schneider character is credited as "The Girl".
  • One Steve Limit: Subverted. Both the protagonist Locke and Robertson, the man whose identity he assumes, are called "David".
  • The Oner: The Epic Tracking Shot at the end is more than six minutes long.
  • Put on a Bus: David does this to The Girl near the end. Subverted as soon they meet again.
  • Red Shirt: David Locke wears the one in the last scene. He is murdered in the end,
  • Sidekick: The Girl to David.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The protagonist assumes the identity of a stranger, walks in his shoes for a couple of days and is then shot. No Antagonist, no Character Development, no resolution.


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