A Blueprint for (Im)possible Places: Narrative Crisis in Antonioni's L'Eclisse (1962)

Dennis Lo


This work reexamines the narrative significance of the final sequence in Michelangelo Antonioni's L'Eclisse (1962). Chatman (1985), Deleuze (1989), and Brunette (1998) have described the final sequence - occurring at an intersection in a new suburban district in Rome - as producing an extradiegetic space, where the camera's exploration of the setting seems disconnected from the story of the protagonists. However, by comparing a concept of 'narrative truth' in Antonioni's screenwriting philosophy, 'narrative nuclei' with various notions of 'architectural truth' (Lefebvre, 1991; Le Corbusier, 2007), I suggest that theories of narrative space where human subjects remain at the center of spatial construction are inadequate for an analysis of the final sequence.

In response to this limitation, this work combines aspects of Deleuze's film philosophy (1986; 1989), Heath's theory of narrative suture (1981), and Tschumi's discussion of architectural narrativity (1996) to propose an original framework for spatial analysis, where a key concept is the 'contact zone' or a Deleuzian concept-image localized in narrative space. An application of contact zone analysis to the protagonists' first meeting at the intersection suggests that the final sequence may be interpreted as a scene not where the couple never shows up, but where both characters are so late, that neither appears within the narrative time.

Having shown that the final sequence constitutes an exploration of space within a freed narrative “interval,” an analysis of the logic by which contact zones are constructed in this sequence and a comparison with Le Corbusier’s notion of the architectural plan demonstrate how space is reoriented and reconfigured into multiple “narrative nuclei” through deterritorialization. Thus, rather than a radical disruption of narrativity, the final sequence draws a “blueprint” for new modes of relation that transcend an excessively rationalized social space, ultimately liberating multiple narrative possibilities from a socially alienating setting.


Antonioni; L'Eclisse; Deleuze; Lefebvre; Le Corbusier; narrative space; narrative nuclei; architectural narrative; deterritorialization; spatial theory

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