Il Grido Review

Masters of Cinema release Antonioni’s 1957 film, Il Grido(The Cry).

The Film

Because is a very seductive word. It explains away the unfathomable, gives reasons where there are none, and it nobly bridges the chasm that exists between our expectations and our experience. For most films, explanation is everything; in the thriller it’s the solution, and in drama it’s the validation of the project’s purpose. Outside of films, few things have a satisfying cause or meaning, and most of what we do is a case of wading through uncertainty hoping for clearer waters ahead.In the films for which the director is rightly renowned, Michelangelo Antonioni presents quests that lead nowhere and events with little in the way of validation. Rather than present a neat package for the casual viewer to unwrap he disappoints, he frustrates and he tantalises with glimpses of beauty amidst almost apocalyptic scenarios. Cause and effect are strangers, purpose is always changing, and the only resolutions found are ones that we don’t seek.

Il Grido is Antonioni leaving behind the mechanics of narrative in order to pose unanswerable questions and present unexplainable stories. A woman(Valli) discovers her husband has died abroad and decides to end her relationship with her live-in lover, Aldo(Cochran). Aldo tries to plead and to intimdate her into changing her mind, but accepts defeat and in anger and shame leaves their village taking with him their young daughter. A succession of dirty jobs, travelling, and different women pass through the father and child’s life until another effort at settling down leads to the child being returned to her mother. Aldo, soon, is revolted by his newly found life and escapes to one final empty flirtation. Drawn back home, he finds the factory he worked at empty, his wife seemingly occupied, and the village fighting its destruction.Aldo’s journey is neither predicated on a strong sense of motive or a clear idea of what brought his old world crashing down. He stumbles through the alternatives that life offers him – an old flame, her sister, a sexpot petrol-station owner, and his boss’ mistress – and this all leaves him missing what he feels he has lost rather than achieving a journey’s end or a new home. Aldo will even reject his daughter to try to belong, but he eventually discovers that only the desire to return is left in him.

Il Grido can’t be described as uplifting. Misery happens, relief is transitory, and the final destination is the final destination. It offers no heroics or redeeeming truth and satisfies itself with the unhappy honesty of a real world that is presented from a grim anti-material perspective. As the action avoids too much in the way of narrative explanation, events proceed in a seemingly inevitable way where concrete consequences follow the inexplicable. Cruelty, unfairness, and unavoidable destruction are evoked in this tale of one man’s loss of belonging. This is done elegantly, without parenthesis, in a circular and symbolic journey that can’t fail to depress as much as it moves the viewer. The framework of a love story is still present at the end, but it is a one-sided and destructive one with no authorial conceit or sense of redemption.

Il Grido is desolate and beautifully formed.

Transfer and Sound

Il Grido is presented at 1.37:1 by Masters of Cinema – you will notice the black borders at the bottom and top of the fullscreen captures in this review. This progressive transfer does lack some detail and seems a little soft, and contrast is not as confident as you may like but the materials do seem a little worn and I am unsure whether, outside of some mild edge enhancement, there has been a lot of restoration here. The transfer is strong though even if it’s not same standard as MOC’s other Antonioni disc, La Notte.The mono Italian track is the sole option here and hum and hiss are noticeable understandably for a fifty year old film. Similarly, effects can lack some definition yet the score is replicated beautifully. For its age, this is a good audio treatment. The optional English subtitles are of bold white type and seem grammatically sound.

Discs and Special Features

This is an all region dual layer disc. The special features include soundless deleted scenes which were cut from the film by the censor for sexual content and alleged blasphemy. Each of the three scenes is an extension of existing material in the movie, and in the case of the blasphemous book selling scene simply re-dubbed to avoid offence. The final extra is an Italian trailer for the film presented with optional English subs.

Not available at the time of review is the 56-page booklet featuring a colour reproduction of the original Italian poster, archival publicity stills, an essay by William Arrowsmith (Antonioni: The Poet of Images), and writing and interviews from Michelangelo Antonioni.


The beginning of Antonioni’s roads to nowhere, Il Grido is presented well by MOC with a few pertinent extras and no region coding.

John White

Updated: May 23, 2009

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