The other day in Cinema Studies we watched clips from Antonioni’s La Notte. I was moved by the sense of urban malaise but what really struck a chord was the last scene at the golf course with Lidia & Giovanni. The married couple realize for a moment that they’re not happy – both as individuals or together – and maybe at the breaking point of their relationship.
Then Lidia pulls out an old love letter and reads it to her husband:
“When I awoke this morning you were still asleep…beyond your face I saw a pure, beautiful vision, showing us in the perspective of my whole life. All the years to come, even all the years past. That was the most miraculous thing; to feel, for the first time, that you had always been mine; that this night would go on forever, united with your warmth, your thought, your will…at that moment I realized how much I loved you…”
Giovanni asks who wrote it – she tells him he did. He can’t remember doing that. He can’t remember loving her so tremendously.
But he embraces and kisses her forcefully, going through the motions to rekindle the love between them. His uncertainty has been muffled by this relic of the past that proves they were once happy.
Or does it?
It was very interesting to me that in this moment of shared self-awareness on the golf course, when they’re not distracted by anyone or anything else they have no choice but to finally talk about their malaise. But a forgotten memory, a forgotten emotion, the old letter, forces them back into their roles as dissatisfied wife and husband. Was the flowery and poetic letter proof of genuine love or simply a portrait of a younger Giovanni, a crafty writer, momentarily taken over by his emotions?
We’ll never know.