What’s wrong with reality? (Red Desert)

It’s not a coincidence, surely, that Monica Vitti in the Italian movie poster for Michelangelo Antonioni’s classic Red Desert, from l964, assumes the position of the tormented man on the bridge in The Scream by Edvard Munch

Most of Antonioni’s movies seem to begin with a beautiful woman, usually Monica Vitti, rushing from the social scene in a state of emotional turmoil, risking themselves, and alarming their lovers and friends. That drama is part of “Red Desert,” but certainly not all, as it turns into a mother-and-child story at times. Almost it becomes an updated female version of the classic Bicycle Thief, with a desperate and hurting parent searching an unforgiving landscape with a sole companion,  her little son.

Towards the end of the film, the bereft mother says to her would-be lover Richard Harris, “There’s something terrible about reality, but I don’t know what it is.”

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