La Notte

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This article is about the film by Michelangelo Antonioni. For the album by Ketil Bjørnstad, see La Notte (album).
La Notte
Italian theatrical release poster
Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
Produced by Emanuele Cassuto
Written by Michelangelo Antonioni
Ennio Flaiano
Tonino Guerra
Starring Marcello Mastroianni
Jeanne Moreau
Monica Vitti
Bernhard Wicki
Music by Giorgio Gaslini
Cinematography Gianni Di Venanzo
Edited by Eraldo Da Roma
Distributed by United Artists (France)
Lopert Pictures (USA)
Release dates
  • 24 January 1961 (1961-01-24) (Italy)
Running time
122 minutes
Country Italy
Language Italian

La Notte (English: The Night) is a 1961 Italian drama film directed by Michelangelo Antonioni and starring Marcello Mastroianni, Jeanne Moreau, and Monica Vitti (it also starred Umberto Eco in a cameo role).[1] Filmed on location in Milan, the film is about a day in the life of an unfaithful married couple and their deteriorating relationship.[1] In 1961 La Notte received the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival, as well as the David di Donatello Award for Best Director. La Notte is considered the central film of a trilogy beginning with L'Avventura (1960) and ending with L'Eclisse (1962).[2][3][4]


Giovanni Pontano (Marcello Mastroianni), a distinguished and successful writer and his beautiful wife Lidia (Jeanne Moreau) visit their dying friend Tommaso Garani (Bernhard Wicki) in a hospital in Milan. Giovanni's new book, La stagione (The Season), has just been published and Tommaso praises his friend's work. They drink champagne but Tommaso is unable to hide his severe pain. Shaken by the sight of her dying friend, Lidia leaves, saying she'll visit tomorrow. Giovanni stays behind a while longer. As he leaves his friend's room, a sick and uninhibited young woman attempts to seduce Giovanni before being interrupted by the nurses.

Outside the hospital, Giovanni sees his wife crying but does not comfort her. As they drive off he tells her about his "unpleasant" encounter with the sick woman and is surprised when Lidia dismisses the incident. They drive to a party celebrating Giovanni's new book, which has been well received. Giovanni signs books, while his wife looks on from a distance. After a while Lidia leaves, still shaken by Tommaso's dire condition. She wanders the streets of Milan, ending up in the neighborhood where she and Giovanni lived as newlyweds. She comes across a brutal street fight which she tries to stop and later she watches rockets being set off in a field.

Back at the apartment Giovanni finally hears from Lidia and he picks her up from the old neighborhood, which seems to have little sentimental value for him. Later they decide to go to a nightclub, where they watch a mesmerizing and seductive performance, by a female dancer and engage in small talk. "I no longer have inspirations, only recollections", Giovanni tells his wife. Lidia suggests they leave the club and attend a swanky party thrown by a millionaire businessman. "One must do something", she says.

At the party, Giovanni socializes with the guests and appears to be in his element, while Lidia walks around in a state of boredom. They spend some time with the host, Mr. Gherardini (Vincenzo Corbella), who seems disappointed by his wealth and exchange insincere flattery. Giovanni wanders off and meets Valentina Gherardini (Monica Vitti), the host's lively, charming daughter. As they flirt, she teaches him a game she just invented involving sliding a compact across the floor and soon others gather to watch their competition. Later they see each alone and Giovanni makes a pass at her, kissing her while Lidia looks on from the floor above.

Later Mr. Gherardini meets privately with Giovanni and offers him an executive position with his company, to write the firm's history. Giovanni is reluctant to accept and leaves the offer open. With Lidia's family's wealth and his earnings from publishing, he doesn't need the money. Meanwhile Lidia calls the hospital and learns their friend Tommaso died ten minutes earlier. Overwhelmed with grief, she watches from a window the guests enjoying themselves. Later she sits at a table alone opposite an empty chair. Giovanni walks over and does not sit down and Lidia does not tell him about Tommaso's death. Giovanni sees Valentina and follows after her, leaving Lidia alone.

Lidia walks to the band and appears to enjoy the music. A man named Roberto (Giorgio Negro), who had been following her, approaches and asks her to dance and she accepts. A sudden rain shower, sends the guests running for cover and some jump in the pool like children. As Lidia is about to jump in from the diving board, Roberto stops her, takes her to his car and they drive off together. She enjoys Roberto's company and their conversation but as he's about to kiss her, Lidia turns away from him, saying, "I'm sorry, I can't."

Back at the party, Giovanni searches through the crowd and finds Valentina alone, watching the rain. She tells him she's smart enough not to break up a marriage and instructs him to spend the rest of the evening with his wife. Giovanni reveals that he's going through a "crisis" common among writers but in his case it is affecting his whole life. They return to the guests, just as Lidia and Roberto return from their drive. Giovanni seems slightly annoyed by Lidia's behavior. Valentina invites Lidia to dry off in her room, where Lidia confronts her directly about her husband. As the women chat, Giovanni overhears his wife tell Valentina that she feels like dying and putting an end to the agony of her life. Noticing Giovanni, she tells him she is not a bit jealous of his playing around with Valentina. They say goodbye to Valentina and leave the party at morning's first light, with the jazz band still playing for the few couples still listening.

As Giovanni and Lidia walk away across Gherardini's private golf course, they talk about the job offer that Giovanni says he'll turn down. Lidia finally tells him about Tommaso's death and recounts how Tommaso used to support her and offer his affections to her but she eventually chose Giovanni because she loved him. She tells him, "I feel like dying because I no longer love you". Giovanni recognizes the failure of their marriage but tells her, "Let's try to hold onto something we're sure of. I love you. I'm sure I'm still in love with you". Lidia takes out a love letter Giovanni wrote to her just before they were married and reads it aloud. Giovanni asks who wrote it and she replies, "You did". Giovanni embraces and kisses her but she resists, saying she no longer loves him and neither does he love her. Unable to acknowledge his own failure, Giovanni continues to make love to her in a sandtrap on a golf course, beneath a gray morning sky.


  • Marcello Mastroianni as Giovanni Pontano
  • Jeanne Moreau as Lidia
  • Monica Vitti as Valentina Gherardini
  • Bernhard Wicki as Tommaso Garani
  • Maria Pia Luzi as Un'invitata
  • Rosy Mazzacurati as Resy
  • Guido A. Marsan as Fanti
  • Vincenzo Corbella as Mr. Gherardini
  • Ugo Fortunati as Cesarino
  • Gitt Magrini as Signora Gherardini
  • Giorgio Negro (actually Gaetano "Tanino" Negroni, a well known Roman eye surgeon) as Roberto
  • Roberta Speroni as Beatrice[5]


Filming locations[edit]


Critical response[edit]

In his review in The New York Times, Bosley Crowther writes, "As in L'Avventura, it is not the situation so much as it is the intimations of personal feelings, doubts and moods that are the substance of the film."[7] Crowther praises Antonioni's ability to develop his drama "with a skill that is excitingly fertile, subtle and awesomely intuitive."[7] Crowther concludes:

Too sensitive and subtle for apt description are his pictorial fashionings of a social atmosphere, a rarefied intellectual climate, a psychologically stultifying milieu—and his haunting evocations within them of individual symbolisms and displays of mental and emotional aberrations. Even boredom is made interesting by him. There is, for instance, a sequence in which a sudden downpour turns a listless garden party into a riot of foolish revelry, exposing the lack of stimulation before nature takes a flagellating hand. Or there's a shot of the crumpled wife leaning against a glass wall looking out into the rain that tells in a flash of all her ennui, desolation and despair.[7]

On the review aggregator web site Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 75% positive rating among film critics based on 16 reviews, and a 92% positive audience rating based on 4,967 user ratings.[8]

The critically acclaimed film director Stanley Kubrick listed La Notte as one of his top 10 favorite films.[9]


Cultural references[edit]

  • At the very end of the credits of the Monty Python movie Life of Brian, the screen reads: "If you have enjoyed this film, why not go and see La notte"?
  • In the Mad Men (season 2) episode, "The New Girl", Don Draper mentions La notte (to Bobbie Barrett) in a rare conversation about things he actually likes.
  • In Spring 2013, ECM released the record La notte by Ketil Bjørnstad, which generally took its inspiration from Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni while its title and cover were taken from the movie.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The film was selected as the Italian entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 34th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.[12]
  1. ^ a b "La Notte". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 8 March 2012. 
  2. ^ Gazetas, Aristides (2008). An Introduction to World Cinema. McFarland. p. 246. ISBN 978-0-7864-3907-2. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  3. ^ Wakeman, John (1988). World Film Directors: 1945–1985. H. W. Wilson. p. 65. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  4. ^ Cameron, Ian Alexander; Wood, Robin (1971). Antonioni. Praeger. p. 105. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  5. ^ "Full cast and crew for La Notte". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 8 March 2012. 
  6. ^ "Locations for La Notte". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c Crowther, Bosley (February 20, 1962). "Antonioni Offers 'The Night': Story of a Lost Union". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  8. ^ "La Notte". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  9. ^ Ciment, Michel. "Kubrick: Biographical Notes". Visual Memory. Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  10. ^ "Awards for La Notte". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  11. ^ "Berlinale 1961: Prize Winners". Retrieved 23 January 2010. 
  12. ^ "Margaret Herrick Library". The Academy. Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  13. ^ ECM Website
  • Arrowsmith, William (1995). Ted Perry, ed. Antonioni: The Poet of Images. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-509270-7. 
  • Brunette, Peter (1998). The Films of Michelangelo Antonioni. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-38992-1. 
  • Chatman, Seymour (1985). Antonioni: The Surface of the World. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-05341-0. 

External links[edit]