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This article refers to the 1970 movie 'Zabriskie Point'. For the soundtrack album see Zabriskie Point ; for the natural monument, see Zabriskie Pointmarker.

Zabriskie Point is a 1970 film by Michelangelo Antonioni that depicts some aspects of the U.S.marker counterculture movement in the late 1960s. It tells the story of a young couple — an idealistic, free spirited young woman, and an aspiring radical turned fugitive. They meet in the desert under bizarre circumstances, instantly connect with a fearless spirit, and then part with tragic consequences. When the fugitive dies in an attempt to reconcile his transgressions with the police his new-found lover's connection to the corporate and government establishment is psychologically and permanently severed when she visualizes the home of her corporate lover/boss exploding in slow motion.

The cult film stars Mark Frechette and Daria Halprin, neither of whom had any previous acting experience. The screenplay was written by Antonioni, fellow Italian filmmaker Franco Rossetti, American playwright Sam Shepard, prolific screenwriter Tonino Guerra and Clare Peploe, wife of Bernardo Bertolucci. The film was the second of three English-language films that Antonioni had been contracted to direct for producer Carlo Ponti and to be distributed by MGM. The other two films were Blowup (1966) and The Passenger (1975).

The film's title refers to Zabriskie Pointmarker in Death Valleymarker, the location of the film's famous desert love scene, in which members of the Open Theatre perform dust covered mock acts of sexual orgy in the strange geologic formations of Zabriskie Point surrounds.


A heated meeting of students and campus groupies discussing direct political action is attended by Mark (Mark Frechette) who openly declares his willingness to die for the cause while simultaneously alienating himself from the other young radicals. He and a roommate buy hand guns. Later Mark, gun in boot, watches as a Los Angelesmarker policeman is fatally shot by another protester who has been tear-gassed. Mark is seen on television and without apparent premeditation steals a small plane and flies into the desert where he encounters free-loving and tolerant hippie Daria (Daria Halprin). Daria is unexpectedly driving to Phoenix to rendezvous with her boss/lover Lee Allen (Rod Taylor). Before she meets Mark she is looking for a specific, albeit non disclosed, place and person but instead encounters a group of young boys who taunt her with sexual cat calls and deviant provocations. After she escapes the boys she is spied from the air by Mark as she fills water for the car radiator. Mark proceeds to buzz her car at one point flying only three feet over Daria as she lies face down in the desert sand. They eventually meet at the desert shack of an old prospector-type man and then the two new lovers wander the valley, philosophize and make love at Zabriskie Point as the unusual Zabriskie formations erupt in an orgy performed by The Open Theatre (Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead provided the music for this scene). The couple then paint Mark's plane in psychedelic colors in preparation for him to return the plane and resume life in Los Angeles. Daria pleads with Mark to remain a fugitive, travel with her and forget about returning the plane. Mark, believing that he can return the plane and evade the law successfully, flies back to Los Angeles only to be killed on the runway by a policeman after landing. Daria learns about Marks death on the car radio, drives to Phoenixmarker to the lavish desert home of her boss where she grieves for Mark by leaning into a drenching waterfall. A brief encounter with the Mexican maid in the home crystallizes in Daria's mind the social inequalities Mark had apparently died for. Without hesitation or goodbyes Daria leaves. But as she is driving away she stops to look back and visualize the home exploding in slow motion to the screeching sounds of Pink Floyd. The explosion apparently represents her psychological separation from corporate greed, superficiality, and racial injustice.


Harrison Ford has an uncredited role as one of the student demonstrators inside the police station.


The soundtrack album, Zabriskie Point, features music from various artists, including Pink Floyd, The Youngbloods, The Kaleidoscope, Jerry Garcia, Patti Page, and the Grateful Dead. A Rolling Stones track ("You Got the Silver") did not appear on the soundtrack album. The songs by Pink Floyd, Jerry Garcia, and The Kaleidoscope were written for the film.

The tune from the widely known Pink Floyd song, "Us and Them", was originally written on the piano by Richard Wright for the movie in 1969; this is where the "The Violent Sequence" title came from. Director Michelangelo Antonioni rejected it on the grounds that it was too unlike their "Careful with That Axe, Eugene"-esque work; as Roger Waters recalls it in impersonation, Antonioni's response was, "It's beautiful, but too sad, you know? It makes me think of church." The song was shelved until The Dark Side of the Moon.

Antonioni visited the band The Doors while they were recording the album L.A. Woman, and considered including them in the soundtrack. The Doors recorded the song "L' America" for the film, but in the end it was never used.

Critical response

The film was a notorious box office bomb, attacked by critics and ignored by the counterculture audience MGM was courting. The film cost $7 million to produce and made less than $900,000 in its domestic release. The booklet later released with the CD soundtrack declared unsympathetically,
... critics of all ideologies — establishment, underground, and otherwise — greeted the movie with howls of derision. They savaged the flat, blank performances of Antonioni's handpicked first-time stars, Mark Frechette and Daria Halprin, and assailed the script's confused, unconvincing mix of hippie-buzzword dialogue, self-righteous, militant debate, and free-love romanticism.


The U.S. Justice Department investigated the film and questioned whether the orgy scene violated the Mann Act in which women were taken across state lines for sexual purposes. However producers pointed out that no sex had actually taken place and that no state line had ever been crossed since Death Valley is in California.


  2. Zabriskie Point (1970) - New York Times - February 10, 1970
  3. "The Making of The Dark Side of the Moon" Pt. 5 (Us and Them)

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