A double bill of early Antonioni films that focus on the alienation of modern industrial societies, both featuring the glamourous (and gorgeous) Monica Vitti. The Eclipse forms the third part of a trilogy with L'Avventura and La Notte, both of which I've yet to see, whilst The Red Desert seems to further develop the themes from these films, although Antonioni uses colour and sound more prominently to emphasis the alienation of his protagonists.
The Eclipse begins with an agonising and drawn out break up. It's several minutes before any meaningful dialogue; the silences speak more than the actual individuals involved ever could. Vittoria (as played by Vitti) is by her own admission "tired, depressed, disgusted and disorientated". When meeting her feckless mother who gambles daily at the stock exchange, she meets Piero, a stockbroker (played by Alain Delon), who pursues her, even though she rejects his advances. To Vittoria, love is a great effort. Piero on the other hand is ruthlessly materialistic and successful; witness the exceptional replication of the goings on at the Rome stock exchange where he thrives. He too is insensitive - when a drunk steals his car and drives it into the river, he is more concerned about the car than the fate of the dead man. He represents the vitality of capitalism; the source perhaps of contemporary human alienation, and her romantic and brooding personality so at odds with his dooms their future - she is unable to love or know him, so she chooses to be alone rather than marry him.
The Red Desert is thematically quite similar. Vitti is Giuliana, a wife recovering from a car accident, who finds no understanding from her husband and finds herself unsettled in her environment. Using colour for the first time, Antonioni is able to amplify this sense of alienation through the unique palette he employs (the reds in particular are very striking in colour), as well as the electronic soundtrack he uses, which is incredibly disorientating, thus reflecting Giuliana's state of mind. The bleak landscape of Ravenna (heavily industrialised and polluted) adds further emphasis to her sense of dislocation. Giuliana's husband's behaviour encourages her to consider an affair with an engineer played by Richard Harris, who seems more sympathetic to her neurotic condition than her husband.
The Red Desert to a degree concludes Antonioni's examination of alienation and loneliness in the modern world. Both films are emotionally devastating pieces of work, held together by the phenomenal performances given by Monica Vitti. Whereas The Red Desert is probably the more ambitious of these films, it does feel like the less involving, though maybe that's the point. Much time and patience has to be invested in these films in order to get the most out of them as events in them often appear pretty random, but all form part of a studied examination of the malaise of both characters that Vitti plays. Antonioni's films have tended to be pretty divisive critically, and these are no exceptions. They will baffle as much as they will entrance.