Archives for category: Nihilism

In this scene from Ingmar Bergman’s Winter Light, the pastor Tomas (Gunnar Björnstrand) is speaking to Jonas (Max von Sydow), who came to see the pastor because he was having suicidal thoughts.

Winter Light (1963)


Stroszek (1977)

“The quest for meaning on earth is futile. Man is unable to feel that he belongs on this planet, which is his home. And yet the mind continues to thirst after God as the symbol of ultimate meaning, regardless of the fact that objectively no hint of purpose could be discerned. Man seeks to control his fate but his unconscious pulls him in different directions and frustrates his effort to impose order upon the chaotic flux of experience. There, in the unconscious, slumber the archetypal images of the gods, the gods who foil all attempts at the conscious governance of human destiny.” (Charles Glicksberg, The Tragic Vision in Twentieth Century Literature, SIU Press, 1963, p. 93)

Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)

“…when it comes down to it, we are simply the miserable subjects of some insignificant failure, alone in this simply marvelous creation; that the whole of human history is no more … than the histrionics of a stupid, bloody, miserable outcast in an obscure corner of a vast stage, a kind of tortured confession of error, a slow acknowledgement of the painful fact that this creation was not necessarily a brilliant success.”
(The Melancholy of Resistance, p. 104)

It’s not surprising that Rumble Fish was booed at its premiere during the 1983 New York Film Festival, but such a start can serve as a mark of distinction, placing a film in welcome company. Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura was booed at its premiere at the more influential Cannes Film Festival over twenty years earlier. At the San Sebastian International Film Festival in 1984, Rumble Fish was redeemed by winning the Golden Shell award. By that time, however, the film had died a miserable death at the box office.

the motorcycle boy reigns

The Motorcycle Boy Reigns

For the most part, critics panned Rumble Fish. The primary criticism of the film was that it focused too much on style, leaving the story obfuscated by liberal amounts of smoke and painted shadows. For example, Janet Maslin, writing in the New York Times, said: “…the film is so furiously overloaded, so crammed with extravagant touches, that any hint of a central thread is obscured.”
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The primary notion of nihilism, existential nihilism or the belief that life is meaningless, can be an outcome of an individual’s own crisis of identity, especially if that identity is grounded in an organization, group, or another individual. This is the case with Michelangelo Antonioni’s La Notte, the second film in what is considered his trilogy of solitude, which also includes L’Avventura (1960) and L’Eclisse (1962). La Notte is the only one of those films not released as part of the Criterion Collection, which is unfortunate, considering the current version of the DVD contains no extras or essays within the case art. La Notte is the tightest of the three films and contains the closest to a traditional narrative of all three. The tone of La Notte harbors the same bleakness as the rest of the trilogy as it explores the issues of identity and meaning within an existing relationship.

Lidia outside the hospital

La Notte‘s story centers around Marcello Mastroianni’s character of Giovanni, a successful writer who has recently published a new book. His wife, Lidia (Jeanne Moreau), provides mere window dressing for Giovanni in the beginning of the film. When they visit a dying friend named Tommaso in the hospital, Lidia remains aloof in the hospital room, refusing to sit and join her husband and Tommaso in a celebratory drink of champagne. Lidia’s distance in the hospital room seems to indicate that Giovanni was the closer friend to Tommaso, but when Lidia leaves the room on short notice and is outside the hospital, her feelings overcome her. This shifts the film toward her as the main character. Read the rest of this entry »