Michelangelo Antonioni's Zabriskie Point

An epic portrait of late Sixties America, as seen through the portrayal of two of its children.

By Balthazar Malevolent

Michelangelo Antonioni's Zabriskie Point

Michelangelo Antonioni's Zabriskie Point (1970) was the director's second project to be shot in English, and its action takes place unexpectedly in 1960s America. Young people Mark (Mark Frechette) and Daria (Daria Halprin) meet by chance in Death Valley. Daria travels to the city of Phoenix to do a torrid job on her boss's project. Mark is yesterday's student who hijacked a plane "to get off the ground". Antonioni plunges the viewer into the epicenter of disagreements between the authorities and the young people protesting against capitalist lawlessness. The director was able to convey the spirit of the epoch so accurately that he was immediately accused of inciting anti-government rebellions and propagandising anti-American sentiments with his film.

The film is named after the Zabriskie Point area in Death Valley. The locale of Antonioni's films always emphasises the mood of the characters and situations. Death Valley is a lifeless desert where even the river water evaporates and does not want to stay; it underlines the danger of the situation, flirting with destiny, being on the edge of the permitted, as well as a classic leitmotif of the director's work - solitude, aloofness and lack of human understanding; it symbolises rare moments of inner peace, interrupted by a troubled world.

A European take on the 60s hippie culture in America, a kind of Antonioni's "Easy Rider", only not about bikers but also students, filmed in the "road movie" style which goes perfectly with the traditional Antonioni's "road to nowhere". The music of Pink Floyd perfectly underlines the rebellious mood of the film, a cultural protest, an alternative view of the world, a spiritual struggle poured into an overt physical confrontation. Reminding of John Lennon, protesting against the American soldiers in Vietnam, together with his wife, the avant-garde Japanese artist Yoko Ono, when they spent a whole week in a hotel room without leaving the bed.

Zabriskie Point by Antonioni
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