Rear View: Michelangelo Antonioni and the Backshot

Characters you hate to see leave but love to watch walk away.
By  · Published on June 21st, 2017

Characters you hate to see leave but love to watch walk away.

Revered Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni (Blow-Up, The Passenger, L’Eclisse) is a master of nuanced characterization. His films are populated by vague people with distinct traits, people who exist seemingly just in this moment, or this place, or this chain of events. They are people both out of time and so heavily self-involved that when exterior forces come along to jar their bubbles, poetic chaos ensues, issues of identity and control arise, and the most significant consequences are internal.

Antonioni might be the architect and author of his films, but ultimately they belong to their characters, they are extensions of either their worldview or the world’s view of them, and one way the director visually relays both this centered-ness and this remove is by filming his characters from behind, focusing not on their faces but their body language, and thus not their personas but their being, how they want to be perceived versus who they actually are behind the facades they’ve created.

In the latest montage from Sharon Lopez, the backshots from various Antonioni films have been cinematically sewn together. As you watch, notice the variety of emotions the director conveys, from proud to shameful, stoic to scared, and elated to dejected. It’s a broad range of emotion demonstrated without a single expression, and it is a testament to Antonioni’s ability to connect with his audience in unspoken and emotional ways.

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