When an Italian woman named Irma (Alida Valli) learns that her husband has died abroad, Aldo (Steve Cochran) — her lover of seven years and the father of her young daughter, Rosina (Mirna Girardi) — assumes that the two of them will finally marry; Irma has other ideas. Now that she’s free (and, simultaneously, forced) to make a decision, she’s realized that she doesn’t want to spend the rest of her life with Aldo. In fact, she admits that for the past few months there’s been “someone else,” a younger man, and she intends to leave Aldo for him.
Naturally, Aldo doesn’t react well to this news, begging Irma to reconsider. It seems, at first, that there’s a slim chance that she could be persuaded to change her mind, but after he slaps her repeatedly in the middle of a crowded street and insists that she come home with him, she no longer has any doubt about what to do. “Now, Aldo, it’s really finished!” she says. Unable to remain in their small town any longer, Aldo abandons his job as a mechanic at a refinery and sets out with Rosina, roaming the countryside in search of work and something to replace what he’s lost. In the course of his wanderings, he becomes involved with several women: first, former girlfriend Elvia (Betsy Blair), then widowed gas station owner Virginia (Dorian Gray), then prostitute Andreina (Lynn Shaw). None of these relationships work out, however, in part because he can never forget Irma, and at last he feels that he has no option but to return to her.
Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1957 film Il Grido was the immediate predecessor to his loose trilogy on alienation in the modern world — L’Avventura (1960), La Notte (1961) and L’Eclisse (1962) — and it shares many of the same themes. That interested me in and of itself, but I also liked the fact that, as the description on the back of the Kino DVD notes, Il Grido “focuses on individuals of the common classes rather than the bourgeoisie of his later films,” giving it a different atmosphere. Indeed, it felt earthier to me than the others, as befits its generally more rural setting. Just as they do in the later movies, though, the carefully shot landscapes play a major role, sometimes dwarfing the characters, and the dreariness of Aldo’s surroundings reflects his confusion and lack of direction perfectly. (Fog is used in several scenes, foreshadowing 1964’s Red Desert, and the refinery where Aldo works brought that film and its chemical plant to mind as well.)
I found it interesting, too, how modernization is seen encroaching on the old ways of life in rural Italy and how that ties into Aldo’s story. This is particularly true near the end, when he returns to his hometown and finds that some of the local landowners are going to be dispossessed so that a jet airfield can be built. A large number of townspeople have banded together to fight back, but the alienated, emotionally isolated Aldo barely even seems to notice what’s going on. As a result of his personal issues, he’s become dispossessed himself, displaced, without a home where he can find lasting peace and happiness — no matter where he roams.
This post is part of the 2017 Blind Spot Series, hosted by The Matinee. My full list can be found here.