Claws Of Despair And Claws Of Animosity

Irma and Aldo were happily married for years and have a teenage daughter. About two years ago they got a problem – Irma who was Aldo’s happiness and emotional support – fell in love. When she understood that her new relationship is serious she confessed to Aldo who took it as a decent person – not scandalously and not aggressively. But the moment came when Aldo couldn’t resist anymore his resentment, became irritated and… publicly beat Irma up, probably, “to restore the family honor”. After this incident Aldo had to leave, and Irma, who didn’t want to deprive him of daughter, brought her to live with him. But in one-two years of Aldo’s futile attempts to settle down, he was desperate enough to send Anita to her mother. And now he is back in the town he lived with Irma and Anita for years. No, he didn’t return to make a scene – he just wanted to see, how everything is. Through Irma’s window he saw her with a baby in her arms. In the shot above we see him looking at the factory he used to work for many years. He wanted to feel again, how it is to be on the factory tower where he was working and then was able to see from above the house, where he lived.

Irma, who by chance noticed Aldo through the window, sensed some danger and rushed out trying to find where Aldo went. She noticed him through the fence of the factory and ran towards the tower. We see her here looking up at Aldo on top of the tower. She wanted to call his name, but somehow was afraid.

Irma sees, that Aldo is losing his balance and can fall from the tower

Irma sees Aldo falling from the tower down

The film ends, when the horrified Irma and dead Aldo are seen together by Antonioni’s camera from the distance, in a wide shot.


Who is guilty for what happened? Is it Irma who wanted to love whom she wanted to love? Is it Aldo for not being strong enough to start a new life? No, detective story is closed by Antonioni without even having been started. But… something wrong with the system of life.

Something is wrong with a system of life which tries to modernize too rapidly and use artificial stimulation to make people rush into the future – the desire to make and spend more and more money, take pleasure from conspicuous consumption and from changing life styles. Practically, story of Aldo’s permanently changing women and occupations after separation from Irma is Antonioni’s parody on what is supposed to be modern happiness. To love the very way of life you lead (that is, of course, if it doesn’t include violence on your part or injustice and inequality you create, or deprivations which make life impossible) is an important and basic form of human spirituality. To feel one with your natural and social environment is beautiful and wise, it is to love nature and to love life. It’s from here, with the need to share our personal immanent narcissism with what is part of our feelings, the inability to adapt to the socio-economic anomie comes. Why should people be burdened by this anomie in the first place? Why should they adapt to the necessity of having to change the whole orientation of their life? Of course, the answer is that anomie is to a very substantial degree created artificially – by people with a pathologically exaggerated need for having more power in a form of technological equipment and wealth. For these people wealth-making becomes the only real interest in life – and they buy the political establishment to organize the excessive dynamism of life, according to which consumerism and self-enrichment become more important than love for life, the world and nature.

People became burdened by the inhuman stress which destroys the spiritual tonality of their living in the world. The aggressive dynamism of economic development is an artificial goal which promises super-prosperity, but is not capable to achieve it, and where and when moderate improvement of living conditions is still possible it often comes with psychological discomforts and emotional traumatization. In other words, the promised benefits of intense economic development and advertisement of dreams about enhanced personal happiness is a sophisticated form of socio-psychological repression and a shameful manipulation of the population. People have lost their existential “skin” – a peaceful, relaxed and a reliable environment. They no longer live – they “achieve”, they’re following the ideological ideal of becoming passionate and proud consumerists and entertained (served with entertainment) role models for the whole world.

It is in this context, in the shots above we notice something very particular in the very moments of Irma’s agony, when she sees Aldo on the tower losing his balance and falling straight down right at her very feet. Look attentively at Irma’s right hand in the 3rd and 4th shots – her fingers, as if, forming into claws. It’s, as if, her right hand fingers try to catch the falling Aldo, save him from his death. This instinctive movement is a utopian, an absurd attempt of Irma’s unconscious to prevent the tragedy. But her finger-claws, claws of despair, makes her, in this moment not only a human being but personification of a politico-economic system which abuses people by putting them under an incredible stress and at risk of mental breakdown. It’s while Irma-the-human being makes an attempt to help Aldo, Irma-the-personification of the system wants to hurt him with her claws for not being able to adapt and accept reality as it becomes.

What Antonioni depicted for us in his “Il Grido/The Cry” we see around us every day in a form of an impossibly high statistics of legal and illegal drug addiction, suicide and homicide, obsession with guns, sex without love, separation from children and proclivity for politics of hate, exclusion and aggression.

Antonioni’s point in “Il Grido/The Cry”, is not, of course, that life is supposed to freeze in an inertia and that any change is dangerous for people, but that too quick economic and technological development, while satisfying greed of the rich minority – tends to destabilize the wider population and is a historical and an anthropological mistake. People have to very seriously start to think about re-stabilization and harmonization of the conditions of life, free liberal education and de-consumerization of human experiences.

Posted on 23 Aug 2014 – Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Il Grido/The Cry” (1957) – Shattering Of Intimacy Between Man And Woman In Industrial And Post-Industrial Modernity by Acting-Out Politics

Posted on Oct 2 2014 – ”Il Grido/The Cry” (1957) By Michelangelo Antonioni by Acting-Out Politics