Zabriskie Point

Michelangelo Antonioni, USA, 1968, Warner Bros Picture France


Daria and Mark have just met, their respective travel plans have brought them, independently, to this iconic spot in Death Valley, where they meet for the first time. Their car crosses a vast, rocky desert, stretching as far as the horizon. But where do you choose to stop in such a limitless space? A wall and sign indicate a specific place – Zabriskie Point – holder of ancient memories, millennia in the making, a dry lake that the forces of nature have shaped over time. Mark and Daria pay scant attention to the information panels, full of scientific explanations about the landscape. The information fills the screen, and the words sound nonsensical, without meaning. They stand, transfixed by the beauty of the extraordinary panorama they see in front of them. They’ve not come as visitors to this famous and oft frequented view point. Antonioni then films their conversation with a circular pan, which allows him to make the most of the couple’s silhouette, which stretches out onto the spectacular geological features that reveal themselves magnificently in front of them. Their conversation flits between flirtation and the violent noise of the world they’ve left behind, with its strike, the murder of a young black man by the police, in contrast to the primitive purity of this isolated place. These strange, sometimes dissonant exchanges are filmed in Panavision, which makes everything seem at a different scale, rendering the characters tiny, and feel like a deep breath being taken before a leap into the unknown. Mark and Daria seem to hesitate and hold their breath at the edge of this new world where they would be the first humans, following some massive disaster, devastating the rest of their race. Once their alliance is sealed, they chase each other through the space, breaking with everything that ties them to their pasts, and literally merge into the prehistoric, lunar landscape and disappear, absorbed by the scale of its immensity.