A rugged, inexpressive refinery mechanic, Aldo (Steve Cochran), hurries home after being summoned by his married lover, Irma (Alida Valli). Irma has been informed of her husband’s death in Australia, and Aldo welcomes the tragic news as a resolution to their seven-year affair. However, Aldo is stunned by Irma’s opposition to marriage, and her subsequent admission to another affair. Unable to find compelling words to make her stay, Aldo resorts to physical violence, and irreparably severs their relationship. In retaliation for Irma’s betrayal, Aldo leaves his home and employment with their daughter, Rosina (Mirna Girardi), and begins to wander aimlessly. His first impulse is to visit his ex-fiancé, Elvia (Betsy Blair), a sweet, devoted woman who still loves him despite his cruel decision to leave her. Unable to reconcile with his own feelings of abandonment, he turns away from the nurturing, supportive Elvia. After catching a ride in a delivery truck, Aldo and his daughter are brought to an isolated gas station run by a sensual, lonely widow, Virginia (Dorian Gray). When Virginia leaves the station unattended in order to chase after an unpaid bill, Aldo steps in to dispense gasoline. Virginia seizes the opportunity to offer him a job, although her motives are clearly more personal than professional. However, Aldo’s unresolved feelings for Irma continue to torment him, and Virginia’s generosity and affection prove insufficient as Aldo decides to move on. Eventually, Aldo comes upon an itinerant fishing village and finds companionship with a prostitute named Andreina (Lynn Shaw). But there is little comfort in their meager existence, and as the harsh winter sets, Aldo decides to return home to confront Irma and reclaim the pieces of his shattered life.
Michelangelo Antonioni creates a poignant and haunting story of alienation and psychological torment in Il Grido. As in Agnes Varda’s Vagabond, the barren landscape, perennially clad in fog, reflects the isolation of the soul. Note the pervasive sound of machinery throughout the film – speed boats, refinery pumps, diesel engines, construction equipment – providing an artificial distraction to the silence. In essence, the cold, bleak, industrial setting further creates a sense of dehumanization, as Aldo is reduced to vagrancy and inconsolable loneliness. In the end, it is Aldo’s silence – his inability to articulate his pain – that perpetuates his own inevitable tragedy.
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