Emotional Poverty in Outcry by Michelangelo Antonioni

Subject: Art
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 8
Word count: 2465
Topics: Emotions, Empathy, Film Analysis, Film Review, Human Nature

Emotional poverty is one of the most significant themes in Outcry by Michelangelo Antonioni. It represents a considerable part of the story because it involves almost all the characters within it as well as the actions of individuals that essentially lead to the dehumanization of others, tapping into the Italian neorealist film tradition (Goldman 9). Emotional poverty in the film is essential to the understanding of the manner in which the changing world has come to affect the lives of all the characters involved in such a way that it promotes a situation where these individuals can be viewed as losing touch with the emotional connection that they had with one another as human beings. The case of Aldo, the main character, and his relationships with the women in his life, is significant because it is the focus of emotional poverty that is prominent throughout the entire plot. In this paper, there will be an analysis of emotional poverty in Outcry, and the manner through which it affects the lives of the various characters within it. The analysis will focus on the effects of emotional poverty, especially on the psychological effects it has on the various characters.

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One of the most significant aspects human interactions is that individuals are able to express their feelings towards one another. This is especially the case in situations where individuals are very close to one another to such an extent that they are not only able to interact at a personal level, but are also able to understand the feelings that each one of them has (Steimatsky 193). However, in a situation where there is emotional poverty, it is often difficult for individuals to express themselves effectively because they have not developed to do so. Under such circumstances, they are not only misunderstood, but they also end up driving the people that they love away. The inability to ensure that they achieve a level of emotional connection with those in their lives makes it extremely difficult to ensure that there is the development of stable relationships. Instead, it leads to the bottling up of emotions that essentially end up with disastrous results. In Outcry, the character of Aldo is one that can be viewed as suffering from emotional poverty, which is manifested in his relationship with Irma. He takes their relationship for granted, because Irma has been his mistress for years and they have a daughter. When they find out that Irma’s husband, who had gone to Australia, is dead, he takes it for granted that they will get married and legitimize their daughter. Aldo, because of his emotional poverty, does not consider Irma’s feelings, and the result is that Irma tells him that she loves another (Chatman 42). Aldo’s emotional poverty can be blamed for the manner through which he reacts to the news because there is a failure on his part to consider that their affair was actually more physical than emotional. Moreover, Aldo seems to have fallen in love with Irma, and her revelation makes him have a negative reaction which forces him to move out of their home.

One of the most significant issues concerning emotional poverty is that it leads individuals into situations where they are not able to express themselves to such an extent that they react violently to small incidents. This is because these individuals are not able to ensure that they hold onto their anger and act in a manner that is reasonable. There are two notable instances in Outcry, where Aldo essentially lashes out against those he really cares about either because he feels hurt, or because of worry (Chatman 42). One such incident is where he slaps Irma because he believes that she does not love him as much as he loves her. Another incident occurs where his daughter, Rosina is almost hit by a vehicle, and rather than taking the time to console her following such a near death experience, slaps her. Aldo is depicted as an individual who lacks the emotions necessary to ensure that he promotes the interests of those people in his life through the development of an emotional connection. Instead, he is shown to be one that ends up in situations where rather than showing his emotional side through affection for those he loves, he reacts violently when things do not seem to go his way or to cover up his worry. Aldo’s failure to develop a strong emotional bond with his daughter as well as with Irma and the other women in his life can be considered a consequence of his emotional poverty. His lack of ability to express his emotions effectively essentially leaves him handicapped when it comes to his personal relationships, to such an extent that he is unable to cope with the issues that come up in his life.

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Incidents of emotional poverty can also be seen in the relationship between Aldo and the prostitute he meets following his relationship with Virginia. The prostitute is an individual who has essentially been dehumanized and made emotionally deficient through her experiences in life. She has come to lose value in her body, and only sees it as a tool to be used to ensure that her needs are satisfied. When she begins her relationship with Aldo, things seem to be going well until such a time as both of them suffer from hunger. She ends up in a situation where she is willing to sell her body to ensure that she gets something to eat. She refuses to listen to the pleas made to her by Aldo; essentially showing him that she does not really care for him and that at the moment, food is what is important to her. This is an incident that essentially depicts two emotionally deficient characters coming together, with the prostitute so far lacking in it because of the dehumanization of her profession that she ends up making decisions out of desperation (Orr 8). Aldo, on the other hand, is an individual that fails to consider that life is harder than it looks. In the case of his comrade, she has no other way to make a living apart from selling her body to make ends meet. Therefore, despite his emotional poverty, Aldo is depicted as an individual who feels deeply and when he attempts to persuade the prostitute not to sell her body, it provides a rare insight into his emotional vulnerability, because it seems that he cannot understand why she would do such a thing as she intends. The dehumanizing nature of emotional poverty is shown firsthand in the relationship between these two individuals.

A significant aspect of the emotional poverty found in this film is that the actions of some characters are dictated by their feelings of desperation and alienation (Rascaroli and Rhodes 7). The example of the way that the prostitute behaves when confronted by hunger can be considered an aspect of desperation that she faces because she seeks to ensure that she gains sustenance through offering her body to one who would provide her with food. The same is the case with Aldo, who because of his feelings of alienation and desperation is incapable of expressing his emotions appropriately (Gallese 202). Instead, despite his initial action of taking his daughter Rosina, from her mother, he ends up sending her back after being convinced to do so by Virginia, his new lover. He fails to offer the paternal love that is essential to encourage a close relationship between a father and child, and is instead made to undertake an action that is essentially alien in a parent-child relationship. Sending Rosina back to her mother is an action which can also be considered to be based on the sense of alienation that Aldo has because he has essentially been rejected by a woman with whom he has a daughter and has had a long-term relationship with.

Aldo’s failure to express his love towards his daughter can be considered a result of his emotional poverty as well as the sense of alienation that continues to plague him. Rather than appreciating her presence in his life not only as his daughter but also as the fruit of his love with Irma, he treats her as an individual that has no feelings of her own. The result of such incidents is that the film ends up essentially being sad (Jubis 43). The way that he lashes out at her following her near accident is quite brutal because she is not only still a child, but she needs the love of a father to reassure her of her safety. The decision to send her back to her mother is another situation that shows the difficulty that Aldo has in expressing his love for his daughter. This is after she finds him in a compromising position with Virginia, his new lover, and rather than seeking to explain to her about what she saw, Aldo makes the decision to follow Virginia’s advice and sends Rosina away. By doing so, he fails to consider that his daughter needs him in her life and that he has a role in catering for her welfare. The emotional poverty in Aldo makes him fail to recognize his daughter’s importance in his life and his in hers.

The sense of alienation seems to be the driving force behind the creation of a situation where Aldo is led inexorably towards his tragic end. The alienation that Aldo experiences because of the changes taking place around him as well as the manner through which he ends up in a situation where he no longer finds satisfaction in the things that should bring him joy is a sign that he has essentially become dehumanized. A consequence is that rather than being able to ensure that he gains satisfaction in life, he is left in a situation where he is left in a situation where he is unable to cope with what it taking place around him. The instance of the manner through which he runs after the bus following his sending Rosina away is a sign that despite his having paternal love towards his daughter, the circumstances in his life do not allow him to express himself appropriately. Instead, rather than his daughter’s presence being a source of joy for him, it is essentially a reminder of his alienation. The way that Aldo behaves can be connected to the way that industrialization in Italy essentially led to the alienation of traditional industries and created a situation where development was brought about at the cost of the humanity within the population. Aldo is therefore a representative of this situation and can be considered an essential part of the development of Antonioni’s image of change in Italy (Rascaroli and Rhodes 7).

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Emotional poverty has the potential of making individuals not to recognize the good things that they have in their lives because of being unsatisfied with their status. Such incidents lead to situations where these individuals are not able to make themselves appreciate life and truly become happy. The case of Aldo can be used as an example to illustrate this point because he is an individual who, despite having the love and appreciation that are needed to make him happy, he essentially sabotages everything, leading to a life of misery and despair (Davies et al.). He fails to realize that his daughter, Rosina, is one of the best things to have happened to him and fails to reciprocate the love that she gives him. The same is the case with his relationship with Elvia, his former girlfriend, who is depicted as having a genuine love for him. She essentially offers Aldo an opportunity to attain lasting happiness with her but he instead makes the decision to leave. Aldo does not realize the potential for happiness that he has and instead essentially sabotages everything because of his love for Irma, which cannot be reciprocated because she has moved on.

The rapid urbanization that is depicted in the film is symbolic of the manner through which Aldo is left behind because of his emotional poverty. He is unable to cope with the new situation following his coming back to his hometown and finding considerable changes have taken place, including the planned destruction of his former workplace (Davies et al.). Furthermore, he finds that Irma has moved on with her life and now has a baby; essentially showing that she is happy with her life as it is. This situation can be considered a manifestation of the emotional fulfillment that she has in her life because of her appreciation of what she has. Aldo, on the other hand, has been left out and cannot share in Irma’s new life because he never appreciated her in the first place and took her for granted instead. Aldo’s sense of despair is a manifestation of his coming to terms with his emotional poverty and this is to such an extent that it leads to a situation where he ends up committing suicide (Chatman 42; Baso 58). The suicide is symbolic of his having lost everything because of his emotional poverty, and his failure to appreciate the people in his life.

In conclusion, Outcry is a film that is full of depictions of incidents of emotional poverty among some of the characters, with all of them having a connection with Aldo, the main character. The discussion above has made an analysis of emotional poverty in the film, and the manner through which it affects the lives of the various characters within it. The analysis has focused mainly on the effects of emotional poverty and the way that it has come to bring about the failure of the protagonist, Aldo, to ensure that he has a more fulfilling relationship with the women in his life.

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  1. Baso, Giulia. Practices of Mediation and Phenomena of Contamination in the Films of M. Antonioni and A. Egoyan.  Kein Volltext, 2014.
  2. Chatman, Seymour Benjamin. Antonioni, or, the Surface of the World. Univ of California Press, 1985.
  3. Davies, Terence, et al. “A Journey through Italian Cinema.” Book Reviews, 2015.
  4. Gallese, Vittorio. Embodying Movies: Embodied Simulation and Film Experience. International Conference Psychoanalysis and Art: Senses and Soul, 19th May 2017.
  5. Goldman, Peter. “Blowup, Film Theory, and the Logic of Realism.” Anthropoetics, vol. 14, no. 1 2008.
  6. Jubis, Oscar. Openness and Closure in Modernist Cinema: Antonioni/Resnais/Haneke/Martel.  University of Miami, 2013.
  7. Orr, Christopher. “Oedipus on the Po: Antonioni’s” Il Grido”.” Film Criticism, vol. 9, no. 1 1984, pp. 8-16.
  8. Rascaroli, Laura, and John David Rhodes. Antonioni: Centenary Essays. BFI/Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.
  9. Steimatsky, Noa. “Pass/Fail: The Antonioni Screen Test.” Framework: The Journal of Cinema and Media, vol. 55, no. 2, 2014, pp. 191-219.
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