Essay on Conflict Between Appearance and Reality

Analyse the conflict between appearances and reality in Blow-Up!

Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up deals with the issue of identity in postmodern society. We follow Thomas, a photographer around London in the 1960s, and we see the film through Thomas’s perspective. Appearance and reality may begin to conflict when the viewer suspects that Thomas’s motive is to apply meaning to his life and identity. Exploring the complex nature of this film’s reality requires examining the significance of images, their context to reality, and the value and meanings prescribed to them. With reference to reality within Blow Up, Antonioni states“Reality has a quality of freedom about it that is hard to explain. This film, perhaps, is like Zen; the moment you explain it, you betray it. I mean, a film you can explain in words, isn’t a real film.” (Antonioni, 1996. 149)The conflict between appearance and reality can be explored by examining Thomas’s relationship with his photographs. Thomas treats his images with a great level of care and respect, quite contrastingly to his attitude towards the models on his photo-shoots. We may note here that Thomas is empowered by his images, as when a woman confronts him, seeking to buy some photographs from him. By viewing Thomas’s relationship with his images in this way, we note that he is roused from his dull existence by them. The theme of escapism can be applied to Thomas’s motivation, as he seems to behave erratically to avoid the monotony of everyday life. Nezar AlSayyad contributes an idea about the significance of the lens, by stating “the lens is thus depicted as a tool for both pleasure and security.” (AlSayyad, 2007, 149)Bearing these ideas in mind, Thomas uses images as a means to alter his reality.

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…an individual’s sense of self becomes questionable. One can interpret Thomas’s journey as one which is fuelled by his desire for a constant meaning to his existence. The film reflects how a sudden onset of inspiration allows us to escape a monotonous daily existence. It is not Thomas’s failing perception that is the antagonist within this film, but rather it is true reality. Images, the treatment of meaning in photographs, and the act of pretending are all escape mechanisms that Thomas uses to flee reality, whether he uses them consciously or unconsciously is remains unclear.


Michealangelo Antonioni (1996) The Architecture of Vision. New York: Marsilio Publishers. 91, 149Seymour Chatman, (1985) Antonioni, or the Surface of the World, Berkeley: University of California Press. 140

Nezar AlSayyad (2007) Cinematic Urbansim, Routledge: New York 148, 149


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