“The Passenger” by Michelangelo Antonioni

“The Passenger”
hotel de la gloriaThis is a beautifully shot film and, although I saw it first in 1975 or 1976, I could remember much of the film’s ending when I saw it at GOMA [Not the city in the Congo but the Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane] in May 2008, some 33 years later.

The second last scene was shot in a single take of about 7 minutes and then later the ‘hotel de la gloria’ was shown in the twilight as the credits ran. I have included this scene below (see YouTube picture at the end of this article).

After seeing the film I was told that it was Patricio Lumumber’s actual death that was shown in this film, a grave and harrowing execution by firing squad of an African leader in the Congo, assassinated by colonialists and their puppets.

Lumumba, the only leader ever democratically elected in Congo, was delivered to his enemies, tortured and summarily executed. Since then, his country has been looted by the U.S.-supported regime of Mobutu Sese Seko and wracked by regional and civil war. – http://africawithin.com/lumumba/murder_of_lumumba.htm

De Witte argues in The Assassination of Lumumba that the United States and Western Europe, fearing that the former Belgian colony would turn to the Soviets following independence, were complicit in plotting Lumumba’s assassination.

Alongside this harrowing scene, Antonioni mapped the film’s main theme of identity.

Identity
The following comments require some knowledge of the plot and the characters in the film (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Passenger_(film) .

Someone asked was ‘the girl’*  actually the wife (lover?) of the real Mr. Robertson, a shadowy arms dealer in the Congo?

If not, how was she able to convince the manager of the last hotel where they stayed that she was Mrs. Robertson if she didn’t have some sort of identification papers?

Why did the manager say to Nicholson when he arrived at the hotel ‘I’ve already seen your passport’ if the girl hadn’t been able to show him some sort of identity?

I am told that is the question, the great conundrum. And asked what is the answer?

During the film I thought ‘The Girl’ (played by Maria Schneider) was the ‘Daisy’ mentioned in Roberston’s diary and the girl was sitting reading on the bench in London at the place and time when Robertson had an appointment with ‘Daisy’ (and for a variety of other reasons) … Locke thought ‘Daisy’ was code for the rebels who wished to buy guns from Robertson.

However, to me, the film is about identity, so I think Antonioni left this question open.

He allowed Locke to assume another identity on Robertson’s death but would not permit the new Locke to return to the Robertson persona when the government agents killed Locke.

Having escaped his own identity there was no way back even through death. His wife denied she knew him, he had never revealed himself to her so his identity was lost.

Also ‘the girl’ who declared that she knew him in the scene below him.

This same ‘Girl’ may have been a ‘judas’ because she seemed to know the government agents and may have cried in remorse for dobbing him in to the thugs who eventually killed him.

For those that are wondering the title refers to the Locke/Roberston character played by Jack Nicholson even though he did nearly all the driving in the film. Apparently Schneider, then aged 19,  could not drive. She does drive off in the car once … but this may have been a double?

Ian Curr
Oct 2008

* no name was ever given to ‘the girl’ played by Maria SchneiderReferences

http://skildy.blog.lemonde.fr/category/cinephilo/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Passenger_(film)

The Assassination of Lumumba BR 14242 by Ludo de Witte 4 volumes

Examination of the 1961 murder of Patrice Lumumba, the Congo’s first prime minister, and its political complexities. De Witte argues that the United States and Western Europe, fearing that the former Belgian colony would turn to the Soviets following independence, were complicit in plotting Lumumba’s assassination. Some strong language. 2001.

9 responses to ““The Passenger” by Michelangelo Antonioni

  1. Dear Kimberley,

    Sure it exists. It is the Hotel Oriente, in Barcelona, in the famous avenue Las Ramblas, you can easily find a photograph in Google Earth.
    Here it goes below

    By the way, a friend of mine also found the location of the Hotel de la Gloria, where the last scenes of the film were shot -in front of an old bullring. It is in indeed in the province of Almeria (not in Osuna), in the village of Vera. The bullring is still there, of course. You can see it in youtube (i.e.

    and I also enclose some photo below.

    Best regards,
    Belen

    Source
    http://www.youtube.com/user/alexelcurioso

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  2. The Girl meets Locke in Barcelona

    Here is a clue

    The Girl meets Locke in Barcelona

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  3. Kimberly Kolbe

    Do you know the name and location of the hotel in Barcelona where Locke has The Girl fetch his bags?

    Like

  4. The Congo: a bloody past, a bloody present...the future?

    PATRICE Lumumba’s sons are seeking justice for their murdered father.

    “Francois, Roland and Guy Lumumba deliberately chose the build-up to the anniversary [50th anniversary of independence) to announce their plan to prosecute surviving Belgian officials allegedly involved in their father’s death. Guy, the leader’s youngest son, said: “I want to know how he died. There are many books I can read and everything has been said, but there is no justice.” — Bloody past colours Congo celebrations

    See also The World’s Worst War Zone

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  5. Do you have any idea of where was this famous scene filmed?

    In the script the action is supposed to happen in Osuna, Sevilla, but there are strong reasons to suspect that it was filmed in Almeria.
    The Hotel de la Gloria was probably not made for the film, as Nicholson believes, but existed before being originally a church.

    But where is this building and bullfighting ring located?

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    • The 'last' scene

      Hello Belen,

      When I saw the film I could not believe that Hotel de la Gloria was made especially for the film.

      If it was, the architect and builder did an amazing job to create such an authentic building.

      As to your question, I do not know where the scene was filmed.

      What is your interest in this film?

      Perhaps you could find the answer by going through the references given at the bottom of my review.

      Do you know if the footage of Patrice Lumumba’s death was real?

      By the way I have found footage of the last scene on YouTube and now have included it in my review.

      Click on “The Passenger” by Michelangelo Antonioni

      Regards
      Ian Curr
      Editor
      Workers BushTelegraph

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      • Hi,

        what is my interest in the film?

        difficult question, what is my interest in Antonioni?…. he is life

        With a friend from the univ. of Chicago (I’m from Madrid, we are both physicists) we are trying to locate the sets.

        In my search the other day I identified the set of another scene. You may like to see it:

        http://www.turismoyarte.com/regiones/andalucia/malaga/toni_dalli.htm

        Looks specially to the entrance shots and also to the two tables…

        What do you mean by saying that the footage of patrice Lumumba’s death was real?
        I have read that that scene is a kind of mirror of Lumumba’s death…. but what do you meand?

        Belen

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        • Patrice Lumumber's death

          Hello Belen,

          Thanks for the link to another set in the film. I have included the images in my review above.

          I understand your interest. Antonioni’s films are fascinating, he must have loved architecture. The shots in his films lovingly explore design & architecture.

          What I meant was that the scene which shows Lumumba’s death was not re-enacted, it was actual footage of Lumumber’s execution brought about by the CIA [I now believe this statement to be incorrect, see further comments below].

          I am saying that I believe the scene in the Passenger showed Patrice Lumumber’s death. (See my review for more detail.)

          I would like to find that scene. I have searched YouTube but can’t find it. I am not being macabre here. I think it was murderous evil that the CIA and Belgian officials contrived the execution of Lumumber.

          I was even more surprised that Antonioni put this execution in his film. I know it fits into the terrible times depicted in the Passenger but I found it very disturbing and wonder why Antonioni chose to include such horrific footage that had some in the audience of the showing I attended at GOMA believing it was the actual murder.

          It is a strange depiction that reminds me of the role of the media in the service of the establishment. The media portrayal often strikes fear into the hearts of people who resist — the media sensationalism can be an element of repression itself.

          Journalists, film and documentary makers may even be subject to fear induced in their subjects. But, surely, the difference is that the media enjoy an separation from the violence and the repression, an immunity not afforded the oppressed.

          The activists who organise and resist repression do not enjoy the luxury of the story teller who often makes a living out of the portrayal of the misery of those that suffer repression.

          Compare the treatment of the Australian journalists depicted in this article, Prayers, tear gas and terror, from the Sydney Morning Herald with the Turkish activists who gave their lives —Turkish autopsy: 5 on flotilla killed by gunshots to head].

          Ian Curr
          July 2010

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          • Footage of Lumumber's death

            Editor’s Note: I have received the following explanation of the scene that purports to be that of Patrice Lumumba’s execution:

            ” that footage of an execution is by all accounts a real one, a documentary so to speak inserted in the middle of the film, not something filmed by Antonioni.

            It is ignored where it happened.

            One of the main collaborators on Antonioni’s work said it was the footage of an execution which happened in fact in Ghana, passed to Antonioni under confidentiality of not saying who gave it to him.

            What seems not to be sustained is that it has anything to do with Lumumba.”

            However I doubt whether it is possible that the scene is a true depiction of what happened to Patrice Lumumber. It is a ghoulish subject that I wish I had not raised, save for the fact that Lumumber, a democratic and strong African leader, was killed by Belgian officials with the help of the CIA.

            Ian Curr

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