DVD/Blu Ray

Identification of A Woman (18) Home Ents Review

Dir. Michelangelo Antonioni, Italy, 1982, 2016, 99 mins, subtitled.

Cast: Tomas Milian, Daniela Silverio, Christine Boisson, Enrica Fico

Review by Colin Dibben

This compact and intense anti-love story from the visionary director was his last true film. Arthouse cinema fans will relish the chance to see it restored in 2K, and anyone who likes serious drama about relationships and sex will find much to ponder.

Nicolo (Milian) is a film director approaching 50, whose wife has just left him. He’s looking for a female lead for his next project and a younger woman to inject some va-va-voom into his life.

He meets posh It Girl Mavi (Silverio) and embarks on a relationship that’s marked by feelings of paranoia on both their parts and by her perception of his neediness.

When Mavi disappears, Nicolo takes some advice from his friend Nadia (Fico – soon to be married to Antonioni) and starts seeing young actress Ida (Boisson).

What do these three women want from their relationship with Nicolo? And what is he prepared to give?

Milian’s performance is unexpectedly lugubrious and reined in. His Nicolo feels washed out even though he is always doing things. It is Silverio and Boisson’s characters who provide the energy and the enigma that keep the film going and it isn’t until the finale in Venice that you realize that Milian is giving a performance.

There are locations in and around Rome, but much of the film takes part in domestic interiors like Nicolo’s flat, with shots through doors carefully composed and lit but looking generically 1980s. Antonioni wanted to make a film that was all about the characters and what they want and could not be considered “pretty” in any way.

Several of Antonioni’s signature style elements (tracking shots that pan away from the action, images that give the viewer a feeling of desolate sublimity, the “displaced witness shot” where the camera is directly behind a character’s head) are either absent or present in truncated form.

Instead, he uses camera movements and compositions to an intimate end, to orchestrate the mundane aspects of a physical relationship. The feeling of detachment which characterises Antonioni’s films ceases to be an effect of the way he films and becomes inherent in the characters themselves. There’s a slight non-linearity to the narrative, which is intriguing in that it is hardly noticeable given the monotone look and feel of the film.

In an extras interview, Antonioni’s widow Enrica draws a direct line between the making of this film and the 1985 stroke which curtailed Antonioni’s career in big film projects. If the lower budget, the Rome setting and the producers’ insistence that he return to the sort of film he was making in the early 60s felt like serious restrictions, the film, while lacking the wow factor, makes up for it in focus and emotional charge. The more naturalistic presentation of human relationships works well and there are even pretty physical sex scenes to ground the thing.

There’s a celebrated, extended sequence in fog which comes close to Antonioni’s stated desire to present characters in no setting; but I think the climax in a Venetian hotel, with seagulls darting

about in the background is one of the most emotionally devastating things he filmed. Every carefully composed shot in this sequence is loaded with reflections in mirrors and glass which makes it compelling to watch and re-watch.


The 2K restoration of Identification of A Woman is out on Blu-ray and digital from 12 September 2022.