L'ECLISSE - Film (Movie) Plot and Review

(The Eclipse)

Italy-France, 1962

Director: Michelangelo Antonioni

Production: Interopa Film and Cineriz (Rome) and Paris Film Production (Paris); black and white, 35mm; running time: 125 minutes. Released 1962. Filmed in Italy.

Producers: Robert and Raymond Hakim; screenplay: Michelangelo Antonioni and Tonino Guerra, with Elio Bartolini and Ottiero Ottieri; photography: Gianni Di Venanzo; editor: Eraldo Da Roma; sound: Claudio Maielli and Mario Bramonti; production design: Piero Poletto; music: Giovanni Fusco.

Cast: Alain Delon ( Riccardo ); Monica Vitti ( Vittoria ); Francisco Rabal; Lilla Brignone; Rosanna Rory; Mirella Ricciardi; Louis Seignier.

Awards: Cannes Film Festival, Special Jury Prize and Catholic Film Office Award, 1962.



Antonioni, Michelangelo, and Tonino Guerra, L'eclisse , 1962; translated in Screenplays of Michelangelo Antonioni , New York, 1963.


Leprohon, Pierre, Michelangelo Antonioni: An Introduction , New York, 1963.

Cowie, Peter, Antonioni, Bergman, Resnais , New York, 1963.

Strick, Philip, Antonioni , London, 1965.

Cameron, Ian, and Robin Wood, Antonioni , London and New York, 1969.

Samuels, Charles Thomas, Encountering Directors , New York, 1972.

Poague, Leland, and William Cadbury, Film Criticism: A Counter Theory , Ames, Iowa, 1982.

Rifkin, Ned, Antonioni's Visual Language , Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1982.

Barthes, Roland, and others, Michelangelo Antonioni , Munich, 1984.

Biarese, Cesare, and Aldo Tassone, I film di Michelangelo Antonioni , Rome, 1985.

Dervin, Daniel, Through a Freudian Lens Deeply: A Psychoanalysis of Cinema , Hillsdale, New Jersey, 1985.

Antonioni, Michelangelo, That Bowling Alley on the Tiber: Tales of a Director , Oxford, 1986.


Perry, Ted, and Rene Prieto, Michelangelo Antonioni: A Guide to References and Resources , Boston, 1986.

Tinazzi, Giorgio di, Michelangelo Antonioni , Firenze, 1989.

Giaume, Joëlle Mayet, Michelangelo Antonioni: le fil intérieur , Crisnée, Belgium, 1990.

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Prédal, René, Michelangelo Antonioni, ou, La vigilance du désir , Paris, 1991.

Arrowsmith, William, Antonioni: The Poet of Images , New York, 1995.

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Lane, John Francis, "Antonioni Diary," in Films and Filming (London), March 1962.

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Barthelme, Donald, in New Yorker , 2 March 1963.

Gerard, L. N., "Antonioni," in Films in Review (New York), April 1963.

"Antonioni Issue" of 7th Art (New York), Spring 1963.

"Antonioni Issue" of Motion , no. 5, 1963.

Nowell-Smith, Geoffrey, "Shape Around the Black Point," in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1963–64.

Houston, Penelope, "Keeping Up with the Antonionis," in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1964.

Nowell-Smith, Geoffrey, "The Event and the Image," in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1964–65.

Godard, Jean-Luc, "Night, Eclipse, and Dawn: An Interview with Michelangelo Antonioni," in Cahiers du Cinéma in English (New York), January 1966.

Andrew, J. Dudley, "The Stature of Objects in Antonioni's Films," in Triquarterly (Evanston, Illinois), Winter 1968.

Gow, Gordon, "Antonioni Men," in Films and Filming (London), June 1970.

Perry, Ted, "A Contextual Analysis of Antonioni's L'eclisse ," in Speech Monographs , June 1970.

Tudor, Andrew, "Antonioni: The Road to Death," in Cinema (London), August 1970.

Hernacki, T., "Michelangelo Antonioni and the Imagery of Disintegration," in Film Heritage (Dayton, Ohio), Autumn 1970.

Decaux, E., "Une Musique: L'eclisse ," in Cinématographe (Paris), November 1980.

Affron, Mirella Joan, "Text and Memory in Eclipse ," in Literature/ Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), vol. 9, no. 3, 1981.

Tarnowski, J. F., "Identification d'une oeuvre," in Positif (Paris), January 1983.

Esposito, J., "Antonioni and Benjamin: Dialectical Imagery in Eclipse ," in Film Criticism (Meadville, Pennsylvania), Fall 1984.

Perez, G., "The Point of View of a Stranger: An Essay on Antonioni's Eclipse ," in Hudson Review (New York), no. 2, 1991.

Tomasulo, F. P., "The Architectonics of Alienation: Antonioni's Edifice Complex," in Wide Angle (Baltimore), no. 3, 1993.

Predal, R., "L'eclisse, l'ellipse," in Avant Scène du Cinéma (Paris), February 1993.

Peck, Ron, "Chance Encounters," in Sight & Sound (London), December 1994.

Landrot, Marine, "Identification d'un cinéaste," in Télérama (Paris), 6 September 1995.

Moore, K.Z., "Eclipsing the Commonplace: The Logic of Alienation in Antonioni's Cinema," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), vol. 48, no. 4, Summer 1995.

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Chatman, Seymour, "The Films of Michaelangelo Antonioni," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), vol. 53, no. 1, Fall 1999.

* * *

Michelangelo Antonioni's L'eclisse is the most succinct expression of moral ambiguities of the Italian "economic miracle" of the late 1950s and early 1960s to come from the national cinema. It is the complement of Federico Fellini's La dolce vita . Whereas Fellini dwells upon the hellish and grotesque dimensions of Roman life during that period, Antonioni focuses upon its inauthenticity and its impermanence. The "eclisse" of the title refers primarily to the brief affair of the protagonists Vittoria, a translator, and Piero, a stock jobber; and secondarily to a brief tailspin in the stockmarket which forms the backdrop of their liaison. In an even wider sense, it alludes to the brief span of human life on earth, literalized in a scene in a natural history museum which the filmmaker had to cut perhaps under pressure from the producers. The sole vestige of this dimension is a fossil Vittoria hangs as a decoration on her wall.

From the opening scene of Vittoria arranging objects in a frame to the final, magnificent montage of the nearly empty, vespertinal streets of Rome's fashionable and modernistic E.U.R. district, Antonioni's typical love of composition and attention to significant detail is in evidence. In this film, things overwhelm people. Even the accidental meeting of Piero and Vittoria for the first time occurs during an ominous pause—a literal "minute of silence" in the stock exchange honoring a dead broker—and they whisper to each other around a monumental pillar (the Roman stock market is built in the ruins of an ancient temple).

The rootlessness of this couple is emphasized in the scenes of their mutual seduction which take place, not in their modern apartments, but in their parents' stuffier dwellings in the center of the city. By locating their amours in the vacant parental apartments, Antonioni underlines the dimensions of compulsion and regression in their relationship. Without pain, almost cheerfully, they exploit each other, playing at seriousness and constancy.

The ironic counterpoint to their homelessness is Vittoria's neighbor, Marta, who longs for her family plantation in Kenya. Her home is decorated with African trophies and giant enlargements of photographs of East Africa. A nostalgist and a racist, who refers to the natives as "apes," she had reified her environment. Antonioni underscores the illusory status of her feeling for Africa by depicting her hysterical attitude to her effeminately mannered poodle amid the vestiges of safaris.

The final minutes of the film sustain a remarkable suspense as the viewer is lead to expect either Vittoria or Piero to appear at the corner of their assignations. Instead, the camera focuses upon the objects and people that had been backdrops and tangents of their actions. As we come to realize that neither will appear, we get a glimpse of a man reading a newspaper (one of the many false identifications of the protagonists) with the headline about the threat of atomic war. The final, sustained close-up of a street light suggests a nuclear explosion which can eclipse human time.

—P. Adams Sitney

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