In Rudolf Arnheim's Dynamics of Architectural Form, Arnheim argues that in many ways, physical space is less important to human beings than the psychological perception of space. For the average man, experience isn't made up of isolated incidents, but rather an "experience is generated only though the interrelation of objects." In Michelangelo Antonion's film L'Avventura, the tension that exists in space when objects are moved together and pulled apart forms a large part of his language on the nature of sexual relationships. My thesis will incorporate Arnheim's article "Elements of Space" in order to illustrate how Antonioni is manipulating space perception in L'Avventura to reflect not only the predatory nature of sexuality, but also a looming sense of danger and female fragility.
[...] If Claudia has a weak internal sense of self, then the move towards the staircase can be seen as a way of defining herself in terms of her relationship with men. The attention is something which she needs, consciously or unconsciously. As she leans against the bottom stone pillar of the staircase, Claudia is, for a moment, simply resting against something larger than her, becoming physically dependent on its support. Anna stares off into space, and gradually becomes aware of the ambient sound of murmuring which has imperceptibly grown until it fills the silence. [...]
[...] Architects are, in essence, anyone who creates space by establishing their own constellations (identity) through the arrangement of various points of reference. As she wanders around the square, Claudia is the only character with obvious and noticeable movement. The men cluster around her silent, imperceptibly, yet she moves in a large elliptical. They are, in a sense, being organized according to wear Claudia chooses to move. Ultimately, Claudia's composed, though noticeably tense, demeanor is an indicator of her sense of disconnect with the world. [...]
[...] In order to translate Antonioni's language of spaces, separating personal and social attitudes from the objective, we will need to revisit a similar scene in L'Avventura that touches on the interplay between space, gender, and sex. Earlier in the film, Sandro is in a crowded city, trying to look for clues concerning Anna. While he is in a bar, a famous “starlet” arrives and is immediately swarmed by hundreds of men. We first see the celebrity from Sandro's point of view: she's in the middle of the frame, but obscured by men who are streaming towards her. [...]
[...] From this angle, the audience can see that Claudia is now surrounded by a cluster of men mere inches away, all of whom have bodies and eyes turned towards Claudia. As she looks over her shoulder, perceiving someone is near her, a man quickly slides up on the right side of the screen. As I alluded to earlier, Arnhiem mentions that this increasing space necessitates a certain amount of subordination from one party, for the closer two objects get to each other, the more they become interdependent. [...]
[...] In discussing the relationship between prominent objects and those who pursue them, Arnheim points out that any time an individual is approaching a tall building or a noticeable landmark, even if there is a complex pathway you must traverse to reach it, your perception is that of a simple journey: that of a “primary goal and the single-minded effort to reach (11). As Claudia grows more prominent, the movement and direction of the male attention becomes more direct and single-minded. [...]
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