Story of a Love Affair is director Michelangelo Antonioni’s debut feature film. Arriving in 1950, it is influenced by the Italian neo-realism of the era, filled with slow scenes set in a realistic world. However it is not fully compliant to the trends of the movement, depicting upper class characters and starring professional actors. This was the bridge between Italian cinema of the time and the future Antonioni would be influential in creating.
Despite being a debut film, Antonioni clearly displays a version of his infamous style. Ambiguity lingers everywhere and the film filled with long conversations between a man and a woman. Love is shown as both fleeting on the whole, but intensely immortal in the moment, exactly as Antonioni would examine further in his more acclaimed works. Plot wise the film follows a private detective hired to investigate the past of a rich man’s wife. This in turn leads to her re-igniting an affair from years prior. From there comes uncertainty and regrets, accusations and allegations. This is what the film ultimately explores.
For an Antonioni movie, Story of a Love Affair could be considered plot-heavy. Or rather, it explicitly has a plot. At times it is a bit of a noir movie, with a possible murder mystery central to proceedings. From there Antonioni produces a variety of moral discussions. His two leads, played by Lucia Bosè and Massino Girotti, are stuck in a world of dilemmas. Their love is forbidden and their passion tragic. Fate tricks people into thinking the world revolves around them, and the twists late in the film shake our characters out of their dreams. Life is a series of chances and coincidences, how one reacts to them defines everything else.
Story of a Love Affair shows that even in his debut, Antonioni was concerned with building a mood and examining love. Later on, he would strip stories like this just down to their atmosphere and evocation. But here everything is presented calmly and crisply, with some beautiful visuals. Fashion is a constant force in the film, representing modernity, another of Antonioni’s recurring themes. While Story of a Love Affair is far from Antonioni’s best films, it does highlight the cinematic future he was working towards and shows key ideas in their raw state, before he would refine his craft in the following years. Overall it’s a strong start to an impressive career.
Cult Films has released the film on Blu-Ray and Digital, this review was of a streaming link.