Red Desert/Il deserto rosso is a 1964 Italian film directed by Michelangelo Antonioni and starring Monica Vitti with Richard Harris. Written by Antonioni and Tonino Guerra, the film is about a woman struggling to hide her mental illness from her husband while trying to survive in the modern world of cultural neurosis and existential doubt. Her relationship with her husband’s business associate helps her confront her isolation.
The film is set in the industrial area of 1960s Ravenna with sprawling new post World War Two factories, industrial machinery and a much polluted river valley. The cinematography is highlighted by pastel colors with flowing white smoke and fog.
This was Antonioni’s first colour film, which the director said he wanted to shoot like a painting on a canvas: “I want to paint the film as one paints the canvas; I want to invent the colour relationships, and not limit myself to photographing only natural colours”
Antonioni managed to deliver this intention like a master painter. The painterly abstraction in Red Desert encourages us to ask if the industrial landscape is really so smeared and bleached out, or if we’re seeing it as Giuliana (Vitti) does.
Post by Coco Pastis