THE RED DESERTIL DESERTO ROSSO marked the beginning of the legendary collaboration between cinematographer Carlo Di Palma and Michelangelo Antonioni. It was Antonionis first colour film and the features cool pastel tones and broken light coupled with the faraway look on Monica Vittis face are among the films main attractions.
Monica Vitti plays Giuliana, who is trapped in a loveless marriage with an engineer. Following a car accident that may have been a suicide attempt, Guiliana spends a long time in hospital. No matter what happens, nothing seems to disturb Guilianas husbands emotionless reserve. And then, Corrado arrives on the scene. Ugos friend is good at listening to Guiliana; he takes his time with her, pays her attention and seems to understand her. And, from a physical point of view, Corrado is the exact opposite to Guilianas husband. Corrado wants to try his luck setting up a factory in South America. But for Guiliana there can be no question of breaking out of her marriage or the security of her bourgeois existence in order to start a new life with Corrado in South America.
IL DESERTO ROSSO is the portrait of a woman losing her grip on reality. Guilianas sense of perception is just as influenced by her unhappy marriage as it is distorted by the physical changes occurring in the world around her. The chimneys, refineries, slagheaps, docks and industrial sites of IL DESERTO ROSSO convey a perfect industrial landscape from which all sign of life has been eradicated. Giulianas perception of her environment becomes the films central leitmotif. The suggestive travelling shots as well as the stylised use of colour and broken lighting effects were to become trade marks of the artistic collaboration between Antonioni and his cinematographer Carlo Di Palma.