La Notte (English: The Night) is a 1961 Italian drama directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. The film stars Marcello Mastroianni, Jeanne Moreau, and Monica Vitti (with Umberto Eco, the novelist, appearing in a cameo).
Filmed on location in Milan, the film depicts a day in the life of an unfaithful married couple and their deteriorating relationship.
In 1961, La Notte received the Golden Bear (at the Berlin International Film Festival, the first for an Italian film) and the David di Donatello Award for Best Director.
La Notte is the central film of a trilogy, beginning with L’Avventura (1960) and ending with L’Eclisse (1962).
The movie follows Giovanni Pontano (Marcello Mastroianni), a distinguished writer, and his beautiful wife Lidia (Jeanne Moreau) as they visit their dying friend Tommaso Garani (Bernhard Wicki) who is hospitalized in Milan. Giovanni’s new book, La stagione (The Season), has just been published, and Tommaso praises his friend’s work.
La Notte reflects the director’s intuition that “you are what you read,” and books create a kind of thread through the story.
The dying, hospitalized patient has recently published an article on the famous philosophical writer Theodor Adorno. At the party the couple drifts into, the works of the Austrian–Jewish writer, Hermann Broch, are mentioned. Essentially, in a depressing glitzy world of lost and semi-lost souls, reading and books constitute a kind of emotional life raft or direction-finding compass, at least potentially. Antonioni frequently uses this motif.
We find this kind of reading and books-centered view of people interpreting their (bewildering) worlds in the works of the French thinker Charles Péguy (who died in battle during World War I in 1914):
“The Jew,” he declares in a passage that has become famous, “is a man who has always read, the Protestant has read for three hundred years, the Catholic for only two generations.”(quoted in Consciousness and Society, H. Stuart Hughes, Vintage Books, paperback, 1958, page 355)
Charles Péguy is also central to Louis Malle’s classic French film Au revoir les enfants (English: “Goodbye, Children”).
If we “zoom out” and look for a meta-intelligent lesson, we can say that reading, writing, and arithmetic, the three basics mentioned in the phrase we all know, are very deeply entwined with who we are. Stories explain us to ourselves, and stories involve books and reading in our “Gutenberg world.”
The replacement of these by various (post-Gutenberg) screens and games may or may not be thought of as a variant since they constitute a kind of “pseudo-participation” and not participation based on perusal.