Red Desert

Red Desert

Italy | 1964 | 120 min. | Michelangelo Antonioni

November 12, 2022

Cinema Italian Style

"It's too simplistic to say—as many people have done—that I am condemning the inhuman industrial world which oppresses the individuals and leads them to neurosis. My intention ... was to translate the poetry of the world, in which even factories can be beautiful." —Antonioni on Red Desert

A provocative look at the spiritual desolation of the technological age, starring the inimitable Monica Vitti as a neurotic housewife who wanders a sulfuric, industrial landscape. Antonioni’s newly restored classic is one of the most innovative uses of color cinematography on record.

By boldly using color to inscribe on the modern landscape a kind of neurosis, Antonioni created one of the most psychological and dramatic color films ever made. This provocative look at the spiritual desolation of the technological age—about a disaffected woman, brilliantly portrayed by Antonioni muse Monica Vitti, wandering through a bleak industrial landscape beset by power plants and environmental toxins, and tentatively flirting with her husband’s coworker, played by Richard Harris—continues to keep viewers spellbound. With one startling, painterly composition after another—of abandoned fishing cottages, electrical towers, looming docked ships—Red Desert creates a nearly apocalyptic image of its time, and confirms Antonioni as cinema’s preeminent poet of the modern age. Questioned about his use of color to evoke ecological ruin and rebirth, the filmmaker observed, “To take for granted the end of the forest; to make something full into something empty; to submit this old reality, by discoloring it, to a new one, a new reality which is just as suggestive—isn’t this what has been happening here for years, in a flux that never stops?” Presented in a new 4K digital restoration courtesy CSC-Cineteca Nazionale and Istituto Luce Cinecittà with the cooperation of RTI-Mediaset.

  • Original Language Title: Il deserto rosso
  • Director: Michelangelo Antonioni
  • Principal Cast: Monica Vitti, Richard Harris, Carlo Chionetti
  • Country: Italy, France
  • Year: 1964
  • Running Time: 120 min.
  • Producer: Tonino Cervi, Angelo Rizzoli
  • Screenplay: Michelangelo Antonioni, Tonino Guerra
  • Cinematographers: Carlo Di Palma
  • Editors: Eraldo Da Roma
  • Music: Giovanni Fusco, Vittorio Gelmetti
  • Website:
  • Filmography: Beyond the Clouds (1995), Identification of a Woman (1982), The Oberwald Mystery (1980), The Passenger (1975), Zabriskie Point (1970), Blow-Up (1966), The Eclipse (1962), The Night (1961), L’avventura (1960), Le Amiche (1955), The Vanquished (1953), The Lady without Camelias (1953), Story of a Love Affair (1950)
  • Language: Italian
  • US Distributor: Janus Films