Warning: before popping La Notte into your DVD player, make sure to open your mind and, more importantly, your eyes. La Notte is seemingly complex on the outside if one goes through it casually; however, there is a deeper symbolism to everything that, if read correctly, will answer all questions as to why it all seems so plain and boring. Think of the entire movie as a very long tarot card reading.
Giovanni Pontano (Marcello Mastroianni) and his wife Lydia (Jeanne Moreau) head off to see their dying friend Tommaso Garani (Bernhard Wicki). Giovanni has just completed a brand-new novel, and he is receiving much praise for it. Upon their arrival in the hospital to see Tommaso, a strange, nameless woman comes upon Giovanni and seduces him into her room while Lydia is off weeping. As soon as the couple quickly reunite, they are torn apart by not only physical and mental distance but deteriorating feelings for each other.
The groundwork here is very precise. From the minute we see Giovanni and Lydia, we notice that they not only don’t say anything to each other, they don’t even make eye contact until the strange woman comes upon them for the first time. As the movie progresses, we feel almost irritated by their parallel presence. Director Michelangelo Antoninoni does a good job of showing the consistently uncomfortable relationship. The couple almost hate to acknowledge each other at some points, and yet can’t seem to come to ends of giving up their relationship. Instead, we are treated to their constant flirting with others and uncomfortable confessions that are occasionally made.
Bravo to the camera work here. Every scene manages to be the cards we need to predict the ending. However, the ending still isn’t what you expect by the time you get there. Yes, while we’re supposed to be able to tell what’s going to happen by the end of this film, we only get part of what we expect, and it’s all due to the camera work. I don’t want to ruin any of the symbolism for you, but I do have to say it can run very deep. The opening scene in the descending elevator should be enough for you to start doing some guesswork on where the film is going.
Acting is done quite well. Not once did I stop and say to myself, “Oh, wow, I can totally tell they’re trying to act.” Nor did I ever stop and realize my grounds in reality. The world is so real, it sweeps you up into it. There aren’t many main characters, but who needs them when you have Giovanni and Lydia constantly in the same world struggling with each other? This film reflects reality to a key and is never once unbelievable; this is one of the best parts of the film.
Once again, I will warn you: open your mind and open your eyes. There’s a world here that reflects our own, even if time has moved on. The characters are probably more relevant today more than ever before, and the same can be said for the story. I don’t have any real complaints, but I can’t give this film a perfect rating. Its ability to spark debate is written all over it, but there are some parts that just manage to drag out; luckily, these are few and far between.