Archive for October 20th, 2021

by James Clark

Demanding of one’s very best, and realizing it, can lead to great contentment. Vittoria, the protagonist of the film, L’Eclisse, The Eclipse (1962), does in fact embrace a kind of contentment which virtually no  one will touch.

Let’s try to understand how she might fare. The credits have a life of their own, and they’re far more acute than they seem to be. It’s the sixties, and the dance craze, “the twist,” is right up her alley. What’s so perplexing in that? Vittoria’s twist is not the twist of Chubby Checker.

We catch up to her in the apartment of Riccardo, her fiancé. As she has had, on many occasions to insist, that though he is kind and very rich (a patrician, in fact—one of Ingmar Bergman’s far from esteemed—having strung him along, only one of her failings), she bores him to, in not so many words, madness. This was to be the last time. They had spent all night arguing about inhabiting distant worlds.

An electric fan had been in action all night. Also pervasive was his art collection. Whereas the fan meant relief, the art meant stasis to her. The currents of taste had become a jungle. The walls and the pedestals were one thing. The numerous empty frames were a challenge, a surprise. She had probably spent the best moments there upon that mystery. It was one thing to cram more dead festoon, in a surprisingly small apartment. But there seemed, for her, to be something unique about the possibility of moving around small factors within those areas. You could, easily, bring up the matter of “still life.” But when you note the couple in the film preceding, in this trilogy, namely, La Notte (1961)—in that case both being patricians, doing a bit of slumming—the night becomes almost a case of pathos. Bohemians! In suits! Can being a soloist improve her game? Games galore are on the menu. For instants, a cut discloses Riccardo’s handsome collection of chairs and tables. The perspective, if that’s the word, only displays the lower area of the furniture. The legs. Soon Vittoria’s legs join the oddity, the twist? The breakaway? Or hiding under the table what she fears? Contentment known; contentment terrifying. The pristine legs, reflecting upon a shining floor. Her stylish shoes? How far will they carry her? A world of reflection! Can that by real? She tells him, “I’ve already decided.” We need to know what “decided” means here. Riccardo, though of some longevity, was a pushover. She knows it will be much harder now. Cliché, however, seems to haunt her bid to brilliantly overcome mediocrity. She visits the curtains several times. Curtains! (One opening discloses a huge structure resembling an atomic bomb.) In that range of disaster, the host pleads, “What do you want me to do? … Tell me what to do, and I’ll do it!” He clearly doesn’t understand that he’s cheek to jaw with a student of the ways of pariahs. Her studies have a long way to go. But you have to give her credit that she’s pounced upon a career of translation, translation with its currents whereby two disparate ranges of sensibility might embrace where only one seemed possible. That new take-off and embrace (a twist) could make a singularity to open eyes, to reach a very different contentment. But, for several reasons, which we’ll present now, Vittoria is headed toward a solitary life. She moots that it might be possible to continue to do his (rarely read) translations of foreign articles for him. (In La Notte, a dying man has been an ardent investigator of writings no one wants to read. Perhaps he’s the only one alive. Perhaps Vittoria is the new mortal.) People lose love. The elements never quit. (more…)

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