Identification of A Woman is the story of Niccolo Farra (Tomas Milian) a middle-aged Italian filmmaker who is searching for himself after his wife has left him. Niccolo is also on the search for the subject of his next film, a woman with the face that will inspire him. This search leads him into relationships with two women who are startlingly different although they look similar.
The first relationship is with Mavi (Daniela Silverio), a young socialite who is sexually experimental and narcissistic. She is a product of the empty world she grew up in and is fascinating to Niccolo who does not fit into that world much less the world around him. While pursuing her, Niccolo receives threats from a stranger to leave Mavi alone and these threats drive a wedge between he and Mavi.
After Mavi disappears, Niccolo begins a relationship with Ida (Christine Boisson), a young actress who is emotionally honest and who knows that Niccolo isn’t right for her, but cannot help herself. They try and pursue each other while Niccolo is still hung up on Mavi.
Niccolo thinks he knows what is takes to be in a relationship, but it becomes evident that with his many years of experience he is truly just as emotionally young as the women he pursues.
Filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni does not pander to his audience when it comes to the realness and rawness of his characters especially in the sex scenes. There is no soft lighting or gentle caresses in this film. The sex scenes are honest and almost uncomfortable as if the viewer had happened upon someone’s private bedroom and just stayed there watching.
Antonioni uses nature and the outdoors as a stark juxtaposition to the the city. Each time Niccolo gets too close emotionally he takes each woman out to different parts of the outdoors. Mavi he takes to the country and Ida he takes to the sea. Each time he is trying to show them the stillness within himself, the quietness that he does not know how to express in the city. Nature also plays a key role in the film’s most famous scene where Antonioni uses fog as not just a set piece but also as a symbol.
Identification of a Woman is definitely not one for someone just getting into foreign films. However, if you are a looking for a film where there is more to it than just reading the subtitles to help you understand, this film may be for you.
Antonioni uses all the elements in this film to really tell you about the characters and their place in life. If you just try and follow the plot, you will miss it.
This Criterion release has been remastered and the subtitles have been improved. It includes a theatrical trailer as well as a beautiful booklet that features an essay by film critic John Powers and an interview with Michelangelo Antonioni.
Identification of a Woman will leave you unresolved and uncomfortable, but I don’t think Antonioni would have wanted it any other way