Set amid an industrial area in Ravenna, Italy, a woman named Giuliana (Monica Vitti) finds herself losing her grip on reality as life around her seems to progress without her. Trying to conceal her anxieties from her successful yet neglectful husband, she finds some solace in his business associate, Corrado Zeller (Richard Harris), but their relationship does little to suppress her existential fears, and her mental state quickly gets worse.
Sometimes I feel like I have no right to be where I am. Perhaps that’s why I keep moving.
Director Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1964 film is a bit of an extension of his previous three films spanning from 1960 to 1962 (L’avventura, La notte, and L’eclisse), which many refer to as a trilogy of sorts on alienation and modernity. While all four films share similar themes and star his then-muse, Monica Vitti, Red Desert is more of a character study, as it focuses on the protagonist’s struggles with a world moving forward with technological advances, which in turn affect how she interacts with the people around her.
As Antonioni’s first color film, Red Desert is able to convey more in his imagery than he was in his previous efforts. Along with shots that show the loneliness Giuliana feels throughout the film, the manipulated use of color helps draw attention to the uneasiness she feels in a society she has trouble adapting to. And as she did in her previous collaborations with Antonioni, Vitti does an excellent job of projecting the ennui of her character amidst what she perceives as a bleak world.
Red Desert (1964)
Directed by: Michelangelo Antonioni
Starring: Monica Vitti, Richard Harris