April 16, 2017
video essay

Watch: The Daring Visual Geometry of Michelangelo Antonioni

Michelangelo Antonioni was a master of the geometrical frame.

No one captures ennui like Michelangelo Antonioni, whose characters are forever suffering from as-yet-unknown existential crises and urban malaise. To express this visually, the Italian auteur mastered the art of visual geometry.

In all of his films, from L’Avventura to The Passenger to Blowup, Antonioni uses landscapes, cityscapes, and objects such as windows and fences to express his characters' conflicting desires and divisive relationships. A new video essay from Fandor explores how Antonioni often used vertical, diagonal, and converging lines to bisect his frame. When framing three characters in a shot, the director would often position their heads in a triangular composition. 

"I have never shot a scene without taking account of what stands behind the actors," Antonioni once said, "because the relationship between people and their surroundings is of prime importance. I want my characters to suggest the background in themselves, even when it is not visible. I want them to be so powerfully realized that we cannot imagine them apart from their physical and social context."

Check out more of Antonioni's uses of visual geometry below.

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3 Comments

A very short, yet informative post.
Thank you so much.

April 17, 2017 at 4:10AM

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Sameir Ali
Director of Photography
756

I learned a lot from his movies and still implement it in my work. The compositions in L'Avventura are amazing. A must-see for every DP

April 17, 2017 at 12:14PM, Edited April 17, 12:14PM

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Jan Becker
DP, Director, Producer
284

This essay isn't as good as I would expect from you Emily. The video, mainly. It shows us patterns (that have been done by numerous other filmmakers as well, especially the use of lines) but doesn't really elaborate on what the composition does to the story. What's the subtext? What is the camera trying to say with these compositions?

April 19, 2017 at 12:09AM, Edited April 19, 12:09AM

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Janmejay Singh
Director
3

Agreed. Vertical, diagonal, horizontal lines are evident in all films. You can't avoid them for the most part. I didn't find most of the examples in this video particularly outstanding. Looking out of windows, framed in doorways, shot through screens or bars are all fairly common compositional devises. I appreciate Antonioni's film-making but I just didn't think the choices of clips striking. Personally, "Fellini's 8 1/2" has much more powerful and memorable cinematography, enhanced by its high contrast black and white processing. Also what comes to mind is Roger Deakins imagery especially in "The Assassination of Jesse James (...)" where I found the framing of landscapes and characters outstanding. I think that in both those cases, the lighting and grading further enhanced the compositions.

April 20, 2017 at 4:23PM

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Paul van Emmerik
CG Lighting
8