Antonioni’s L’Eclisse and the Cinematography of Separation

Sometimes it’s more than fate that keeps young lovers apart.

Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Eclisse (The Eclipse) is a star-crossed love story about a young woman (Monica Vitti) who begins a romantic affair with a handsome stockbroker (Alain Delon) shortly after ending a relationship with a much older man. As their attraction draws them together, their differences, specifically the stockbroker’s materialism and the young woman’s fancy for the simpler things in life, like love, simultaneously push them apart. In the end the division between them is stronger than their chemistry, and the relationship follows suit.

To some this might sound like a spoiler, but it isn’t, the entire point of this love affair is that it is doomed from the outset, even the title hints at a schism of the light love shines on the world, and all throughout the film Antonioni visually demonstrates the border between his young lovers, specifically with a series of vertical lines that come between them in literally every scene they share. It is a synergy of framing, blocking, narrative, and character that is unparalleled in cinema. In the context of the film, this physical separation is background, but when all examples are seen together at once, as they are in the following video from all eyes | all ears, their prominence and importance to plot is revealed.

A love story needn’t have a happy ending to be successful – just look at Romeo & Juliet – and in fact sometimes it is love soured from which we can learn the most. L’Eclisse is one such love story, and in learning how its two protagonists are ultimately kept apart by their differences, we come to understand just how strong their impulse to be together truly was.