Analysis of Antonioni's Blowup


Blowup: Narrative Structure
Distractions: Clues to the Mystery of Blowup
Blowup: Scene Commentary

Narration

The dominant mode of narration in Blowup is third-person external narration (See: Narration in Film). The story is presented from outside the story-world. The film always stays outside of the characters. There are no Mind-flashes or forms of first-person narration such as flashbacks.

However, the camera does take on an active narrative role at certain key points. The camera becomes the story-teller in part of the analysis of the first blow-ups sequence. It takes an active role in reconstructing the meaning of the event. Then the camera turns the blow-ups into a film of stills accompanied with sound. By means of cutting and camera movement, it constructs a coherent narrative of the murder. It isn't just the camera presenting the Photographer's pov shots--simulating his perceptions. The camera becomes an independent actor. The camera also narrates at the end, when it actively follows the imaginary ball that the mimes hit. It moves from simply showing the scene in a impersonal way, into participating in the game of the mimes, following the imaginary ball.

Plot

The plot is the photographer's gradual discovery that his photos of a couple in the park turn out to be a murder of which he is the only witness. The plot is a classic one: An initiation story in which the Photographer moves from ignorance to knowledge.

Setting

The setting is London in the 60's. The glitzy world of a fashion photographer. A high-style studio. Idlyllic garden of Eden park. Upper Class pot-party. Rock concert.

Characters

Symbols

Language

The film is minimalist in terms of communication through language. In fact one of its points is to demonstrate the non-communication of language. The characters simply can't make contact with each other through language. Speech is an evasion and not a vehicle of communication. The major scenes between the Photographer and Patricia, the woman and Ron are scenes of the failure of communication.

Though the dialogue is minimal, it is heavy with symbolic statement. There are a number of thematic statements made in cryptic or ironic speeches throughout the film. Bill's comment about the painting meaning nothing till later and then figuring it out. The Photographer's statement to the Woman: "Nothing like a little disaster for sorting things out." The Photographer's statement to Ron in the restaurant:"I wish I had a ton of money and then I'd be free." The dialogue between the Photographer and the Woman, the Photographer and Patricia about the blow-up, between Ron and the Photographer at the pot party.

Theme

The film explores the isolation and the inability to communicate that characterizes the lives of the characters. The Photographer is initiated into the knowledge of his own aloneness and the discovery of his inability to communicate.

The Photographer's had an overwhelming experience--he's been a detective and discovered a murder and seen the body. But he discovers that he is unable to communicate the experience to anyone else. He's left with the knowledge of the murder, whcih no one else can share. The blow-ups reveal the truth of the murder to him, but the final blow-up reveals, through its inability to communicate its content, his isolation.

The Photographer's life has been distancing of himself from others and a manipulation of others by means of his camera. He's been a voyeur. When the blow-ups suck him into the reality of a murder in which he touches the body of the dead man, he discovers that he can't communicate this experience to anyone. Neither Ron, nor Patricia, nor anyone else can understand or share his experience. The film ends with him falling back into his unsual pattern of distraction by getting involved in the imaginary tennis game. However, as he watches and hears the sound of the ball, he reflects on his own isolation.

The film conveys his isolation by focusing on his reaction-shots. We infer his negative thoughts at the end by the look of anguish on his face. The cut to the extreme long shot of him as a small, isolated figure in the middle of the field, communicates to the audience his final aloneness.