Michelangelo Antonioni's "Red Desert" has a particularly ingenious narrative language. With an outwardly calm and minimal action, the film is filled with a strange, almost palpable sense of depth.
Quiet shots imbued with soft inner light, with a minimum of dialogue form a large part of the film. The bleak industrial landscapes and close-ups of construction debris or dilapidated factory walls form a world transformed beyond one's recognition and filled with a special beauty.
Antonioni's constant theme of man's loneliness in the modern world reaches its climax in Red Desert. The director managed to capture the gloomy, depressive state of Giuliana's soul and make the observer on the other side of the screen experience her mental torment and her loneliness.
Red, the colour of love and rage, marks the beginning of Giuliana and Corrado's relationship. The railing of the bed on which they make love is red, while the similar railing in her husband's house is a cold pale blue, symbolising sadness, melancholy, depression, and alienation. Yellow signifies suffering - all the things that torment Juliana. A yellow flag on a ship whose sailors are afflicted with illness, a toxic yellow smoke coming from the factory chimneys. The pink sand on the beach from the dream-tale reflects her hopes.
Every frame of the Red Desert is filled with symbolism - not only the visuals but also the unusual soundtrack. There is no soundtrack as such. Instead of music, there are the alarming booms of motorboats, the rumble of jackhammers and other plant machinery, as well as unnatural metallic noises of mysterious origin.
In his film, one of the greatest existentialists of the industry explores the deepest causes of Juliana's spiritual desolation, her alienation crisis and the problem of her loneliness, detachment even in love.
The ending of the film makes perfect sense. Pointing out to her son the poisonous smoke billowing from the factory chimneys, she observes that birds, unlike humans, have adapted to avoid that which is destructive to them.
— Why is that smoke yellow?
— Because it's poisonous.
— Then, if a little bird flies through there, it dies!
— By now the little birds know. They don't fly through there anymore. Let's go.