Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Michelangelo Antonioni, Cavaliere di Gran Croce

Italian Modernist Film Director, Screenwriter, Editor and Short Story Writer

"I don't like nostalgia. I don't like to look back, only forward."

"My work is like digging, it's archaeological research among the arid materials of our times. That's how I understand my first films, and that's what I'm still doing."

"The moment always comes when, having collected one's ideas, certain images, an intuition of a certain kind of development — whether psychological or material — one must pass on to the actual realization. In the cinema, as in the other arts, this is the most delicate moment — the moment when the poet or writer makes his first mark on the page, the painter on his canvas, when the director arranges his characters in their setting, makes them speak and move, establishes, through the compositions of his various images, a reciprocal relationship between persons and things, between rhythm of the dialogue and that of the whole sequence, makes the movement of the camera fit in with the psychological situation. But the most crucial moment of all comes when the director gathers from all the people and from everything around him every possible suggestion, in order that his work may acquire a more spontaneous cast, may become more personal and, we might even say — in the broadest sense — more autobiographical."

"The principle behind the cinema, like that behind all the arts, rests on a choice. It is, in Camus' words, "the revolt of the artist against the real." If one holds to this principle, what difference can it make by what means reality is revealed? Whether the author of a film seizes on the real in a novel, in a newspaper story or in his own imagination, what counts is the way he isolates it, stylizes it, makes it his own."

"We are saddled with a culture that hasn't advanced as far as science. Scientific man is already on the moon, and yet we are still living with the moral concepts of Homer. Hence this upset, this disequilibrium that makes weaker people anxious and apprehensive, that makes it so difficult for them to adapt to the mechanism of modern life. ... We live in a society that compels us to go on using these concepts, and we no longer know what they mean. In the future — not soon, perhaps by the twenty-fifth century — these concepts will have lost their relevance. I can never understand how we have been able to follow these worn-out tracks, which have been laid down by panic in the face of nature. When man becomes reconciled to nature, when space becomes his true background, these words and concepts will have lost their meaning, and we will no longer have to use them."

"A man who renounces something is also a man who believes in something."

"I think people talk too much; that's the truth of the matter. I do. I don't believe in words. People use too many words and usually wrongly. I am sure that in the distant future people will talk much less and in a more essential way. If people talk a lot less, they will be happier."

"A scene has to have a rhythm of its own, a structure of its own."

"I always want to tell stories. But they must be stories that evolve, like our own lives. Perhaps what I seek is a new kind of story."

"What I reject is this refusal to let silence have its place, this need to fill supposed voids."

"When man becomes reconciled to nature, when space becomes his true background, these words and concepts will have lost their meaning, and we will no longer have to use them."

"The contrast between Leonardo and Michelangelo is an allegory of the arts of modern times. Leonardo left copious notes of his observations on nature and the world around him, but little about his feelings or his inner life. Michelangelo, in his letters, his poetry, in biographies by his friends and students Vasari and Condivi, in conversations with Francisco de Hollanda and others, left us vivid revelations and eloquent chronicles of himself. Leonardo, the self-styled "disciple of experience," was a hero of the effort to re-create the world from the shapes and forms and sensations out there. But Michelangelo, prophet of the sovereign self, found mysterious resources within. These two greatest figures of Italian Renaissance art dramatized a modern movement from craftsman to artist. If Leonardo could be called the Aristotle—practical-minded organizer and surveyor of experience—Michelangelo would be the Plato, seeker after the perfect idea."

"Painting dissolves the forms at its command, or tends to; it melts them into color. Drawing, on the other hand, goes about resolving forms, giving edge and essence to things. To see shapes clearly, one outlines them—whether on paper or in the mind. Therefore, Michelangelo, a profoundly cultivated man, called drawing the basis of all knowledge whatsoever."

"A director is a man, therefore he has ideas; he is also an artist, therefore he has imagination. Whether they are good or bad, it seems to me that I have an abundance of stories to tell. And the things I see, the things that happen to me, continually renew the supply."

"Don't regard my characters as symbols of a determined society. See them as something that sparks a reaction within you so that they become a personal experience. The critic is a spectator and an artist insofar as he transforms the work into a personal thing of his own."

"Everything depends on what you put in front of the camera, what perspectives you create, contrasts, colors. The cameraman can do great things, provided he is well grounded technically. If a person hasn't the raw material, I obviously couldn't do anything with him. But all I ask of a cameraman is technical experience. Everything else is up to me. I was amazed to find that in America cameramen are surprised that this is the way I work."

"All the characters in my films are fighting these problems, needing freedom, trying to find a way to cut themselves loose, but failing to rid themselves of conscience, a sense of sin, the whole bag of tricks."

"Hollywood is like being nowhere and talking to nobody about nothing."

"I am neither a sociologist nor a politician. All I can do is imagine for myself what the future will be like."

"For me, from the moment when the first, still unformed, idea comes into my head until the projection of the rushes, the process of making a film constitutes a single piece of work. I mean that I cannot become interested in anything, day or night, which is not that film. Let no one imagine that this is a romantic pose ? on the contrary. I become relatively more lucid, more attentive, and almost feel as if I were intelligent and more ready to understand."

"I began taking liberties a long time ago; now it is standard practice for most directors to ignore the rules."

"I find that it is very useful to look over the location and to feel out the atmosphere while waiting for the actors. It may happen that the images before my eyes coincide with those I had in my mind, but this is not frequently the case. It more often happens that there is something insincere or artificial about the image one has thought of. Here again is another way of improvising."

"I don't want what I am saying to sound like a prophecy or anything like an analysis of modern society... these are only feelings I have, and I am the least speculative man on earth."

"I am not a theoretician of the cinema. If you ask me what directing is, the first answer that comes into my head is: I don't know."

"I would like to make clear that I speak only of sensations. I am neither a sociologist nor a politician. All I can do is imagine for myself what the future will be like."

"If one holds to this principle, what difference can it make by what means reality is revealed? Whether the author of a film seizes on the real in a novel, in a newspaper story or in his own imagination, what counts is the way he isolates it, stylizes it, makes it his own."

"In Blow-up I used my head instinctively!"

"Is it important to show why a character is what he is? No. He is. That's all."

"I have always imposed my wishes on the cameraman. Moreover, I have always picked them at the outset of their careers and, to a certain extent, have formed them myself."

"I mean simply to say that I want my characters to suggest the background in themselves, even when it is not visible. I want them to be so powerfully realized that we cannot imagine them apart from their physical and social context even when we see them in empty space."

"I meant exactly what I said: that we are saddled with a culture that hasn't advanced as far as science."

"I want my characters to suggest the background in themselves, even when it is not visible. I want them to be so powerfully realized that we cannot imagine them apart from their physical and social context even when we see them in empty space."

"I rarely feel the desire to reread a scene the day before the shooting. Sometimes I arrive at the place where the work is to be done and I do not even know what I am going to shoot. This is the system I prefer: to arrive at the moment when shooting is about to begin, absolutely unprepared, virgin. I often ask to be left alone on the spot for fifteen minutes or half an hour and I let me thoughts wander freely."

"I try to avoid repetitions of any shot. It isn't easy to find one in my films. You might, I suppose, see something twice, but it would be rare. And then, you know, every line requires its own kind of shot. The American method of shooting one actor continuously, then moving to the other, then intercutting both ? this method is wrong. A scene has to have a rhythm of its own, a structure of its own."

"Modern life is very difficult for people who are unprepared. But this new environment will eventually facilitate more realistic relationships between people."

"It's very difficult to explain what I do. It is much more instinctive than you realize; much, much more. ... the reasons that make me interested in a subject are, how shall I say, fickle. Many times I have chosen, among three stories, one for reasons that are entirely accidental: I get up and think this one will be stupendous because the night before I had a certain dream. Or perhaps I put it better by saying that I had found inside myself reasons why this particular story seems more valid. ... I always have motives, but I forget them."

"Normally, however, I try to avoid repetitions of any shot."

"I've always said that the actor is only an element of the image, rarely the most important. The actor is important with his dialogue, with the landscape, with a gesture ? but the actor in himself is nothing."

"She isn't my wife, really. We just have some kids. No. No kids. Sometimes, though, it feels as if we had kids. She isn't beautiful, she's just easy to live with. No, she isn't. That's why I don't live with her."

"Sometimes I pick up a magazine and read a piece of film criticism ? to the end only if I like it. I don't like those which are too free with praise because their reasons seem wrong and that annoys me. Critics who attack me do so for such contradictory reasons that they confuse me, and I am afraid that if I am influenced by one, I will sin according to the standards of the other."

"My characters are ambiguous. Call them that. I don't mind. I am ambiguous myself. Who isn't?"

"One doesn't enter groups of people simply because one wants or needs to. One has an infinite number of opportunities that occur for no particular reason. Sometimes you feel a sudden unexpected pleasure at being where you find yourself."

"The greatest danger for those working in the cinema is the extraordinary possibility it offers for lying."

"Scientific man is already on the moon, and yet we are still living with the moral concepts of Homer."

"The photographer in Blow-Up, who is not a philosopher, wants to see things closer up. But it so happens that, by enlarging too far, the object itself decomposes and disappears. Hence there's a moment in which we grasp reality, but then the moment passes. This was in part the meaning of Blow-Up."

"Till now I have never shot a scene without taking account of what stands behind the actors because the relationship between people and their surroundings is of prime importance."

"We know that under the image revealed there is another which is truer to reality and under this image still another and yet again still another under this last one, right down to the true image of that reality, absolute, mysterious, which no one will ever see or perhaps right down to the decomposition of any image, of any reality."

"We live in a society that compels us to go on using these concepts, and we no longer know what they mean."

"When a scene is being shot, it is very difficult to know what one wants it to say, and even if one does know, there is always a difference between what one has in mind and the result on film."

"When a scene is being shot, it is very difficult to know what one wants it to say, and even if one does know, there is always a difference between what one has in mind and the result on film. I never think ahead of the shot I'm going to make the following day because if I did, I'd only produce a bad imitation of the original image in my mind. So what you see on the screen doesn't represent my exact meaning, but only my possibilities of expression, with all the limitations implied in that phrase. Perhaps the scene reveals my incapacity to do better; perhaps I felt subconsciously ironic toward it. But it is on film; the rest is up to you."