In The Night (La Notte, 1961), Michelangelo Antonioni proposes the progressive rupture of the relationship in a bourgeois marriage (a writer, and a writer’s wife). However, on the symbolic level, the filmmaker establishes in advance, the sexual desire imaginary of Lidia (Jeanne Moreau) facing her husband’s disinterest. Hence, The Night is not a film about a couple in crisis, but about the gaze of a woman on this crisis.
For Antonioni, the frustration in Lidia’s desire is reflected in different representations of her repressed drives, that’s why he frees the characters, makes her wonder, allows her the possibility to fulfill her desire among the streets, with unknown people, smiling to different men, and specially towards anything that embodies whatever she’s not getting from her husband. The phallic figures or the materialization of that fixation as a symbol of something she don’t
possess, are repeated again and again.
What is Lidia looking for? In the man lies the symbol of what’s desirable for her.
The search of Lidia is not only the search of sexual satisfaction, but an affirmation of class, the high class woman who descends to a middle class out for love for a man -who she takes care financially- and then descends to a lower class as a space to discover before the possible loss of the husband.
The search of the phallus in a different, alien world. The real world, of real and vital men, as a possible space of solace.