I became interested in this film when I viewed another movie entitled “About Elly” which was compared to “L’Avventura” because of a similar theme of a member of a group getting lost. “L’Avventura” is a black-and-white Italian film directed by Michelangelo Antonioni which has become a classic, having won several awards in Europe for its excellence.
In the 1960s, Antonioni began to typify, along with such artists as Federico Fellini and Ingmar Bergman, a new form of cinematic art, which portrayed the ennui present in contemporary Europe among the idle rich. Ambiguous endings, alienation and isolation, together with awesome scenery, were the hallmark of European films of that day. Antonioni featured Monica Vitti, with whom he had a romantic relationship, in all of his earlier films. "L’Avventura" was followed within the next two years by Antonioni’s "La Notte" and "L’Eclisse" which constitute what some consider a trilogy of sorts because of the style, social setting, theme, plot and characters which resonate so frequently in these three films.
Monica Vitti - Wikimedia
The film "L’Avventura" (which translates to “adventure” or even “flirtation”) tells the tale of a group of extremely wealthy friends who take a cruise on the Mediterranean Sea surrounding Sicily and the nearby Aeolian Islands. They use any means to escape their boredom, hoping to distract themselves from their meaningless lives through a fruitless search for some kind of pleasure.
We are introduced first to Anna (Lea Massari) and Claudia (Monica Vitti), good friends, as they pack for their adventure with several of their friends. Anna’s father is disappointed that his daughter leaves him alone so often to be with her friends. Anna’s boyfriend Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti) has arrived to drive the girls to their first destination. In a first hint of the selfishness of that generation, Claudia was forced to wait downstairs while Claudia and Sandro made love, even though they would all be together for the next weeks.
An Offshore Excursion
When the yacht reached the Aeolian Islands just north of Sicily, they embarked for one of the smaller islands, Lisca Bianca, and Anna decided to take a swim. She yelled that she had seen a shark and Sandro jumped in after her to protect her. Anna confessed to Claudia later that the “whole shark thing was a lie,” probably to get Sandro’s attention. The couple had quarreled earlier because Anna was unhappy that Sandro took so many business trips away from her. Anna was overheard telling Sandro that she wanted to be alone.
Lea Massari - Wikimedia
Anna is Missing
The trio, together with two other couples, went to explore the barren island, which was very rocky with scattered brush and trees. At one point, Sandro took a short nap on the massive rocks. When he awoke and the party was about to leave for the yacht, they could not find Anna. Sandro was annoyed and said that it was typical of Anna’s behavior to cause such turmoil. They all searched the island for several hours; there was no trace of Anna. They saw a boat off in the distance and wondered if Anna might have gone on that boat.
It was decided that some of the group would take the yacht to the nearest island to enlist the aid of the police. Sandro and Corrado (James Addams), the oldest member of the group decided to stay on the island in case Anna showed up. Claudia insisted that she wanted to stay also. They continued their search.
An Attraction Develops
The trio found a shack on the island which they used for shelter that night. Claudia woke early to watch the sunrise. In her bag was a blouse of Anna’s that her friend had given her and she put on the blouse. Sandro joined her on the cliffs and recognized Anna’s blouse. They talked about their dear friend. There was the slightest hint of an attraction between the two at this point.
The police arrived that morning and conducted a thorough search which proved fruitless. Anna’s father also came to the island by means of a hydrofoil. Claudia showed him Anna’s belongings which contained a bible, which assured Ann’s father that his daughter had not committed suicide.
When they all left the island to get back on the yacht, Sandro unexpectedly grabbed Claudia and kissed her. Claudia was startled at this and decided to search the islands all by herself. The group agreed to meet at Corrado’s villa in Palermo.
A Scene from L'Avventura - Wikimedia
Sandro Continues His Pursuit of Claudia
The police were questioning a group of smugglers who were seen in the sea around the island Lisca Bianca, but their investigation proved that the smugglers had nothing to do with Anna. Sandro caught up with Claudia and told her he loved her as she boarded a train to Palermo. As the train pulled away, Sandro ran after it and managed to get on board. Claudia was annoyed at his actions and said “I don’t want you with me.”
Some News of Anna
After the train ride, Sandro tracked down a journalist named Zuria who had written a newspaper story about Anna’s disappearance. Zuria told Sandro that a chemist in Troina suspected that a woman who came to him for tranquilizers was Anna. Sandro headed for Troina. Claudia met the rest of her party at Corrida’s villa in Palermo. No one else seemed to be troubled about Anna’s disappearance. When Claudia heard about the chemist in Troina, she headed there. Finding Sandro in Troina, they visited the chemist who said the woman had taken a bus to Noto in southern Sicily. They drove together to Sicily.
Map of Sicily - Wikimedia
Anna is Forgotten
Sandro and Claudia checked into a hotel room together, where they made love. They forgot all about Anna. They no longer mourned her. Their own happiness overpowered them. The next morning they located the only hotel in town, believing that Anna must be staying there. Claudia asked Sandro to go to the hotel alone. She felt it would be awkward if the two of them were together when they found her. Sadly, Sandro was told she was not there.
Claudia was in a quandary because of her new relationship with Sandro. She felt disloyal to her good friend Anna. Sandro asked Claudia to marry him, but she refused. Everything was too complicated at this time. She was joyful, though, knowing that she was deeply in love with Sandro and her love was returned.
Claudia Looks for Sandro
A party was in progress in the hotel. Claudia was too tired for the party, but Sandro dressed and went downstairs. When Claudia woke from her nap, she was surprised that Sandro had not returned from the party. She went downstairs, but was unable to find him anywhere.
The ending of “L’Avventura” (Adventure) will not be revealed here. It is typical of the Italian films at that time to insert some ambiguity. You may or may not like the outcome.