The Passenger (1975 film)
|This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the German Wikipedia. (May 2013)|
US theatrical poster
|Directed by||Michelangelo Antonioni|
|Produced by||Carlo Ponti|
|Written by||Mark Peploe
|Music by||Ivan Vandor|
|Editing by||Michelangelo Antonioni
|Studio||Compagnia Cinematografica Champion
Les Films Concordia
|Running time||119 minutes
126 minutes (extended 2005 version)
The Passenger (Italian: Professione: reporter) is an Italian-Spanish-French drama film from 1975, directed and co-written by Michelangelo Antonioni and produced by Carlo Ponti. It stars Jack Nicholson as a television reporter in Africa who assumes the identity of a dead stranger. The film competed for the Palme d'Or award at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival.
David Locke (Jack Nicholson) is a television journalist making a documentary film on post-colonial Africa. To finish the film, he is in the Sahara desert seeking to meet with and interview rebel fighters involved in Chad's civil war. Struggling to find rebels to interview, his frustrations reach a climax when his Land Rover gets hopelessly stuck on a sand dune. After a long walk through the desert back to his hotel a thoroughly glum Locke finds that an Englishman by the name of Robertson (Charles Mulvehill), who has also been staying there and with whom he had struck up a friendship, has died overnight in his hotel room.
Locke switches identities with Robertson; he is tired of his work, his marriage and his life, and senses an opportunity for a fresh start in life. Now, posing as Robertson, Locke reports his own death at the front desk, where the hotel manager mistakes Locke for Robertson, and the plan goes off without a hitch.
In London, Locke's wife Rachel (Jenny Runacre) has been having an affair with someone else but is guilt-ridden and torn by the news of her husband's death. She approaches Locke's friend, Martin (Ian Hendry) a producer at the BBC, in an attempt to get in touch with Robertson so that she may learn more about her husband's last days. Meanwhile "Robertson" (Locke) has flown off to Europe with the dead man's belongings, including his appointment book.
Locke soon discovers Robertson to have been gunrunning for the rebels he himself had been trying to contact in the desert. When he goes to check-out an airport locker listed in Robertson's diary, Locke is tracked down by the rebels' point man in Europe, who is there to finalize the weapons sale. Since neither man has ever seen the other before, Locke is able to escape the meeting without being discovered and ends up receiving what is the first down-payment in cash for the apparent arms deal Robertson had already set up before his death.
Later Locke accidentally spots Martin on a street in Barcelona, as the latter tries to track Robertson down on behalf of Rachel. Locke backtracks quickly and at this point bumps into an architecture student (Maria Schneider) while trying to hide nearby. He asks her to fetch his belongings so he won't be seen at his hotel, where Martin has apparently camped out in order to catch up with "Robertson". She sneaks past Martin, and then stays with Locke as he drives off from Barcelona. They become lovers, as Locke confesses that he has stolen a dead man's identity while trying to explain his recent behavior.
Locke is flush with cash from the down payment on the arms he cannot deliver, but is nevertheless drawn to keep the meetings listed in Robertson's book. In the meantime, Rachel has received Locke's belongings that have been flown back from Africa. Having heard from Martin of his unsuccessful chase of the evasive "Robertson", Rachel receives a shock when she opens Locke's passport, only to discover the photo of Robertson pasted inside. She now realizes why "Robertson" is being so evasive, and heads off to Spain to track Locke down herself.
Locke now begins fleeing from the Spanish police, whom Rachel has brought in on the search for Robertson, but the Girl is loyal and helps him evade them, providing rational advice. Locke sends the Girl away on a bus, saying he'll meet her in Tangiers later. The thugs eventually catch up with him at the Hotel de la Gloria after he sends her away with a grim story of a blind man who regains his sight only to commit suicide, in a Spanish town (Osuna, province of Seville). The assassination takes place off screen in a seven minute long take-tracking shot which begins in a hotel room, travels out into a dusty parking area and tracks back into the hotel room. All significant living characters are present in the last minutes of the movie as the Girl identifies the dead man as Robertson, while Locke's wife says she doesn't know him.
- Jack Nicholson as David Locke
- Maria Schneider as Girl
- Steven Berkoff as Stephen
- Ian Hendry as Martin Knight
- Jenny Runacre as Rachel Locke
- Ambroise Bia as Achebe
- Charles Mulvehill as David Robertson
The film's penultimate shot consists of a seven-minute long take tracking shot which begins in Locke's hotel room looking out into a dusty, run-down square, pushes out through the bars in the hotel window into the square, rotates 180 degrees, and finally tracks back into the hotel room.
There is another long take earlier in the film, when Nicholson is exchanging passport photos, with a tape recording playing an earlier conversation between Nicholson's character and the now dead man. The camera then pans, without a cut, to the two of them talking on the balcony i.e. an in-camera flashback.
- The location of the hotel is stated to be Osuna in the film. However, the bullring at the edge of the square is recognisably that of the one in the Spanish town of Vera, in the province of Almería. In a DVD commentary, decades later, Nicholson said Antonioni built the entire hotel so as to get this shot.
- Since the shot was continuous, it was not possible to adjust the lens aperture as the camera left the room and went into the square. Hence the footage had to be taken in the very late afternoon near dusk, in order to minimise the lighting contrast between the brightness outside and that in the room.
- The square was windy and the crew needed stillness to ensure smooth camera movement. Antonioni tried putting the camera in a sphere so the wind might catch it less, but this wouldn't fit through the window. In the scene it appears that the bars may have been adjusted to be removed as the camera approached them.
- The camera ran on a ceiling track in the hotel room and when it came outside the window, was meant to be picked up by a hook suspended from a giant crane nearly 30 metres high. A system of gyroscopes was fitted on the camera to steady it during the switch from this smooth indoor track to the crane outside. Meanwhile the bars on the window had been given hinges. When the camera reached the window and the bars were no longer in the field of view they were swung away to either side. At this time the camera's forward movement had to stop for a few seconds as the crane's hook grabbed onto it and took over from the track. To hide this, the lens was slowly and smoothly zoomed until the crane could pull the camera forward again.[Note 1] Antonioni directed the scene from a van by means of monitors and microphones, talking to assistants who communicated his instructions to the actors and operators.
Although it is often referred to as the "final shot" of the film, there is one more, which shows a small driving school car pulling away in the twilight some time later, holding on the hotel as the credits begin to roll.
The Passenger has been widely praised for its camerawork (by Luciano Tovoli) and acting. While the movie has been critically praised by such movie critics as Peter Travers of Rolling Stone and Manohla Dargis of The New York Times, it has also been criticized by Roger Ebert, Danny Peary and others for being slow-moving and pretentious. Ebert later changed his stance on the film and considered it a perceptive look at identity, alienation and mankind's desire to escape oneself.
- Explanatory notes
- Only a year later (1976) the wholly portable Steadicam, which uses a counterweight system rather than gyroscopes, would become available for this kind of shot, greatly simplifying such setups.
- "Festival de Cannes: The Passenger". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-05-02.
- Chatman, pp. 183–185.
- Chatman, p. 202.
- David Saul Rosenfeld (2007). "Note 25". Michelangelo Antionioni's L'eclisse. A broken piece of wood, a matchbook, a woman, a man. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
- Alex el Curioso (2009-08-04). "El Reportero Antoninon escena final". YouTube. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
- Arrowsmith, William; Ted Perry (1995). Antonioni: The Poet of Images. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509270-8.
- Chatman, Seymour (1985). Antonioni: Or, the surface of the World. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-05341-9.
- The Passenger's Official Site at Sony Pictures
- The Passenger at the Internet Movie Database
- The Passenger at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Passenger at Metacritic
- The Passenger Meets History, by Robert Koehler
- Review of The Passenger in its 2005 re-release. SlantMagazine.com
- Review of The Passenger in its 2005 re-release. Carina Chocano, Los Angeles Times, 11/04/2005
- Review of The Passenger in its 2005 re-release. Manohla Dargis, New York Times, 10/28/2005
- Roger Ebert's review of The Passenger
- Turner, Jack (1999). Antonioni's The Passenger as Lacanian Text. Other Voices 1 (3).
- The Passenger Fan Page