Story of a Love Affair

★★★★ 4/4

Antonioni’s first feature film begins on my favorite of plot devices: pictures of a young woman being thrown onto a table as we are explained the background of the story of which we are about to embark. The story is, as the title suggests, an investigation into a love affair. It starts from the point of view of a private eye, but it’s just the jumping off point as we are thrown into the waters of the drama, becoming fully immersed in the story from all perspectives.

The film stars Lucia Bosè as the aristocratic wife (Paola) of a wealthy industrialist (played by Ferdinando Sarmi). As the opening scene suggests, she’s a socialite. Odd as Antonioni’s background suggests a neorealist sentiment. However, I believe this film still is working within the neorealist ideology. By examining a socialite, we get to inherent neorealist themes: that of the effects of wealth, and the heart of desperation. Bosè delivers a good performance as the passionate, almost Machiavellian character, who can be at one point so sure of herself, only to fall to immaturity later. But the real outstanding performance is Massimo Girotti in the role of the struggling car dealer that Paola begins an affair with. He can play the role of the manipulated mistress, as well as the demanding decision maker, while still being able to keep it grounded in one single persona. Their affair that begins due to arbitrary jealousy of Paola’s husband is well developed, passionate, and natural. The tension that follows is well paced, and not spoon fed, creating scenes of fascinating hidden motivations, and subtle characterization.

Antonioni’s camera is a large part of what makes the film work. It mimics the actor’s movements, creating a feeling of underlining stress and intrigue as he creates multiple compositions in one take. There’s no striking image like he would later create in L’Avventura, but he tells the story with a wise aspect of restraint, and artistry.

With its release in the 1950s, it won the Nastro d’Argento Silver Ribbon for Best Original Score, a well deserved feat. The composition by Giovanni Fusco (Hiroshima Mon AmourL’Avventura) holds up with immense vigor, creating a human suavity, and unexpected quality similar to the picture.

Story of a Love Affair works on all levels of cinema. An interesting character portrait, home to a mature camera, great performances, and outstanding score; a fantastic debut from a future master.

About Forrest Allan (19 Articles)
Self-loathing narcissist.

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