Antonioni on Adaptation

I recently watched Chambre 666 or Room 666 via a Netflix DVD but you can also find it on Vimeo. It is a documentary and 16 directors address the question of “what is the future of cinema… is cinema a language about to get lost, an art about to die?”  Wim Wenders made the film during the 1982 Cannes Film Festival. Each director had one reel of 16mm film, 11 minutes. Wenders narrates an introduction then each director responds to the question while being recorded alone in a hotel room.

Michelangelo Antonioni was for me the most interesting and currently relevant, speaking during the time of the early years of magnetic tape. People who still argue about film versus video may benefit from his words, the translation of which I have transcribed here. Antonioni says in English that this is a serious question or (logic) problem and he would prefer to speak in Italian and so he does. AC

 “You did the right thing, Wim, to face it in a move.

As you said, it is true that the existence of cinema is threatened. We have to keep in mind different things. There are different aspects to this problem that can’t be denied. (He stands up, perhaps to move more freely.) For example, the fact that TV is influencing everybody, the mentality….the eye of the viewer is undeniable, especially younger people, the kids. But it is undeniable that we think that this subject is particularly serious, possibly only because we are a different age.

 We have to adapt to what is the need of entertainment in the future.

We all know that there are nine forms of representation of reality. There are new forms of reproduction…new technologies like the magnetic tape…which will probably come to replace traditional film stock which no longer meets today’s requirements. It has problems. For instance, Scorsese has pointed out that color film fades over time. It is an interesting problem that concerns film more than magnetic tapes. I believe that with new technologies like the electronic system and maybe others, like lasers, who knows…or others that are yet to be invented. The audience is growing and this problem will be resolved.

I still don’t know how and I am myself worried about the future of cinema.

We are still attached to film because film has given us many opportunities to show what we feel and what we thought we had to say. But it is possible that with the acquisition of new technologies like magnetic tape, with what it will be able to offer…possibly this feeling we have will no longer exist. In reality there is always a gap between today and tomorrow’s mentality that we can’t foresee. We can’t even predict how these houses will look. These ones we see out the window. Possibly one day they will no longer be there, will no longer exist.

We don’t only have to think short term. But we have to think of a future that will probably never end.

We have to think of the viewers’ needs in the future. I am not as pessimistic. I have to say that I am quite….I’ve always tried to adapt to the forms of expression that would fit the time. So I made a movie in videotape many years ago, when research on colors was required. I painted the reality. It was a rudimentary system but it anticipates my work in video. I’d like to try further experiments in that direction. Because I’m sure that the possibilities of video will teach us different ways of thinking about ourselves. It’s difficult to talk about the future of cinema. Probably, widely, high quality video cassettes will soon bring films into people’s homes…and with high definition magnetic tape, we will have the cinema in our homes. We will no longer need to go to movie theaters. Current structures will disappear, not as quickly and easily as that suggests…but it will happen…the change is inevitable…and we can’t do anything to prevent it.

We will only have one thing to do. We will need to adapt.

I examined the problem of adapting in Deserto Rooso, adapting to new technologies, to new levels of pollution in the air that we will have to breathe in the future. Our own organism will evolve. Who knows what lies in store for us. The future will present itself with unimaginable ruthlessness. But we can guess what it would be. I believe that…Now, I need to restate what I just said. I’m neither a good speaker not a good abstract thinker. I like to be practical and do the experiments instead of talking about them. My feeling is that It wouldn’t be all that hard to transform us into new men…better adapted to our new technologies. That is all I have to say.