Fellini and a Return to Film as an Art Form

         Italian cinema after World War 2 went through a transformation. After the rule of Mussolini's fascist regime was over, many aspects of Italian culture were drastically reformed to get back some of what may have been lost. Italy's film industry was no exception. Film theorists of the time cried out for a more accurate representation of the everyday human social interactions that take place throughout one's life. This was probably a result of years of the Fascist control over media and entertainment. The audiences strived for something fresh that showed once again, something real that they could identify with. The Italian Neorealist movement, as it was coined, took the cameras out of the studios and into the streets. Instead of using professional actors, the film makers started using amateurs, in hopes of portraying people in a more honest down-to-earth way.

         It was out of this movement that Fellini arose. He started out as a cartoonist, and eventually began writing screenplays. When he began making his own movies, he was still very much like his contemporaries at the time; holding onto the neorealist ideals that were so valuable to the film industry at the time. After a decade or so, this became forced. The film industry was starting to pump out of a lot of the same stuff, for entertainment/commercial value; and film started to look less and less like an art form. After a couple of films that started to illustrate his ideological departure, he underwent a lot of criticism from his peers. With his film, 8 , he not only shows only his appreciation of the neorealist tradition but also illustrates his own departure from the tradition.

         In 8 , Fellini illustrated the struggle of making the movie 8 . The main character is a film maker struggling with the producer and his own creative funk. He cannot decide what to make his movie about and constantly finds himself struggling with events and times in his childhood and personal struggles in his later life. By the end of the movie, the character finally feels that he understands. He comes to terms with the struggles of his life and accepts them as a part of his art. Rather than trying to alienate himself from his own life while making a movie, he accepts the fact that these have become a part of it. Fellini illustrates in this film, the kind of struggle that he himself was likely encountering during the production of the film itself. One of the things that really set Fellini apart as a film maker is his ability to show the objective importance of subjective events. Rather than trying to make the film an illustration of some broad social struggle that the audience could identify with, he made it about something personal; and it is through understanding that one individual's plight that an objective understanding of these types of struggles can be found. This film is really one of those films that it is just better to see to understand it. The film makes extensive use of symbolism and does not shy away from confusing the viewer.

         It is film makers like Fellini, and film makers of the French new wave that really tickle me. This is because they really pushed film as an art medium. The plot and narrative is not the most important feature of these films, nor is it only the visual that is of value. Films such as these function on so many different levels, and have so much to offer. When these films made their way across to the United States, we started to see American cinema develop accordingly. This is why we really start to see American cinema blossom in the 1970's and even into the 80's.

Jacob Carl Nerney

Table of Contents