The Topology of Disappearance: Michelangelo Antonioni
Michelangelo Antonioni was the first cineaste to explore in depth the relationship between humans and the environment. His films deal with “the environment as everything that surrounds humans” — i.e. the landscape that defines existence. From stories to backgrounds, all structures and arrangements contribute to addressing the fundamental relationship between characters and space, whereby the characters always depend on the space surrounding them. His films focus on maintaining the tension created by this interdependence. In order to illustrate this, Antonioni removes or abandons many cinematic elements, and consequently, the story is treated as being secondary. The significance of the empty space surrounding the characters and the threatening landscape is made clear in the incomplete narrative fraught with disconnection, indifference, and hollowness, which then offers an experience of unprovoked anxiety and psychological tension. As such, the space influences the state of the soul and the characters’ emotions are reflected in the landscape. Furthermore, the filmmaker performs the fusion of the mankind and the environment. The characters undergo the adventure of “disappearance” in which abstract spaces that absorb and swallow people become fascinated and evaporate by themselves. This is why we must re-examine the works of Michelangelo Antonioni at a time when we’re haunted by the sense of crisis that the world may collapse due to overwhelming environmental problems, including climate change, not to mention the widespread ontological anxiety that makes us doubt our own existence.