8 ½, Federico Fellini


“8 ½” is a film about film-making and this very content makes it reflexive upon its own nature. But moreover, I feel that the way it depicted the process of film-making did not focus on the technical aspect, but the creative one, from the point of view of the author of the audio-visual work – the director.

The main character symbolically represents the film’s director, Federico Fellini, in his attempts to create a movie that is worth watching despite his seeming “creative block.” He puts off confronting this problem of his for a long time until his producers badger him for progress and some material that they can see. Instead of actively searching for a solution, he goes on with his life, fooling around with different women and continuing his daydreams. Indeed this can be seen in the first scene of the film where the protagonist is seen floating through the air, seeming to reach for the sky, only to end up being yanked down by his producers’ nagging. From here, I realized that the film did not fully disregard the search for creativity, but rather, it tackled the search for inspiration amidst one’s restlessness. One may find it in his relationships with other people, in his everyday experiences, and even the problems that he tries to run away from but never seem to escape. Even one of our classmates pointed out that it seemed the real center of the film was Guido’s wife, on whom his true focus was. Guido’s decisive actions were based on the actions and decisions of his wife, the plot’s main catalyst. The personal relationships and the people at the heart of the director was the one who directed his actions and directed his inspiration. Indeed, even some scenes that flashback to Guido’s childhood further show this inspiration. Similarly, we can liken this to directors in general, who are able to successfully portray and depict certain emotions, ideas, and truths through various cinematic tools (like the actors, the cinematography, and the music,) because they are able to draw from their personal experiences. They already know the truth from their own lives and can therefore translate these into works of art for other people to know and appreciate.

The film that Guido proposes to create is one about the grandiose idea of science-fiction, one that is purely of imagination and is designed to stimulate it even further. But as it is purely from perception, Guido finds it difficult to film, maybe because he has lost interest in it, or because it is not even the least bit interesting to other people, or because he has lost his muse. Either way, the film symbolizes a hyped-up perception of film-making, of the elements in film, of the content of film, and of the things the films try to portray – something grandiose, imaginative, flamboyant, and simply for enjoyment. Perhaps it is the film’s message as well to communicate the ostentatious and hyperbole-ed depictions of mainstream films. In a way, I feel as though Fellini was trying to return to us how we ourselves perceive films and how we feed on it, not for the truth or message, but for its spectacle. Indeed, the film even includes cerebral lines that touch one of the things directors are most sensitive about – how their work represents who they are. Of course, art is always a representation of the artist, not only because it comes from inside him (his mind, heart, or emotions,) but also because it flows through him. Every line, every angle is directed by the hand and the eye that perceived it. These artworks are depictions of how one person saw them, vividly or otherwise, in reality or in his imagination. My favorite lines, spoken by Guido Anselmi, from the film can actually be found at the end:

"I thought my ideas were so clear. I wanted to make an honest film.  No lies whatsoever. 
I thought I had something so simple to say.  Something useful to everybody.  
A film that could help to bury together all those dead things we carry within ourselves...
I have nothing to say, but I want to say it all the same."

In the end, I feel as if the film was trying to communicate itself as an artwork, a representation of the author, of his feelings, his ideas, his views, his self. The film-making process itself also symbolized the process of finding oneself, of finding something in your self that you want to show and to tell other people, no matter how pointless you think it is. Indeed, even Guido refused to stop making films, even if he has “nothing to say,” because there is always something to say. The film-making process represents the process of making art. And yet, alongside this, the film also portrays the problems seen in doing so, especially since film as art is seen as very profitable. Eventually, it becomes a problematic between wanting to find oneself and having to please the audience.

In comparison to “Peeping Tom,” “8 ½” is a lighter film to watch, although I am not saying that it is easy to watch. “Peeping Tom,” as a film about Aggression and Violation also tackles the film-making process, but mainly through its technical aspect – through yielding and directing the power of the gaze. Because “watching” seems to be aggressive and a violation of one’s privacy, the film had the effect of being too disturbing, especially because of the psychological suspense that it wields throughout the film. “8 ½,” on the other hand, tackles the glamour and enjoyment that films seem to offer to the audience. These two films about film-making present two different views on how film and its processes can be perceived and received.


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Some links that may be useful in further understanding the film “8 ½”:
Robert Ebert’s Review

Federico Fellini by Antonia Shanahan

Official Biography of Federico Fellini

Interview with Fellini

Derek Malcom’s Review

Martin Scorsese said that everything that can be said about film-making is found in the movies 8 and 1/2 and Peeping Tom. Peeping Tom shows how the camera violates on the other hand, 8 and 1/2 is about the glamor and enjoyment in film-making. 8 and 1/2 is a metalfilm as it is a film about film-making.

The film in itself is highly autobiographical. For instance, the title 8 and 1/2 refers to the number of films Federico Fellini previously directed. The character Guido could be considered as a representation of the great director himself. Although the whole movie is about the process of film-making, it actually is more of the internal struggle that Guido is experiencing. He is experiencing writer's block and the cause of this can stem from the many issues that he has in the past. In the movie, many of the scenes are attributed to Fellini's own memories and the very problem of writer's block is something Fellini knows all too well. To distance the director from the film would be removing a very big part of the movie.

Another aspect that 8 and 1/2 and Peeping Tom have in common is the influence of psychology, more specifically the psychoanalytic aspect. The movie Peeping Tom explores the psychosexual influences of Freudian psychoanalysis on the other hand, 8 and 1/2 is greatly influenced by Jungian psychoanalysis. Fellini preferred Carl Jung's ideas of dreams, anima, animus, the role of archetypes and the collective unconscious as seen in the way Guido is jerked to and fro the realms of reality and of fantasy.

The movie can actually be seen as a collection of ambiguous to senseless episodes. The films progression though jumps from one point to another looking as if not all of the scenes tie up. There seems to be incoherence. However this can be attributed to the fact that Guido is facing a problem. The way Guido is handing the stress though is through a defense mechanism, again very psychoanalytic. Guido in fact is regressing to an earlier part of his past and it can even come to a point that he wants to go back to his mother's womb. This is evident in the way the film progresses. The progression of the film is very incoherent, seemingly jumping from one scene to the other. Also the character Guido himself can't even focus on one single aspect of his life just like a child who has a very short attention span.

The conclusion of the film does not actually resolve anything. At the end of everything, Guido starts to direct everyone in his life into a giant circle hand in hand and dancing. In the end, the film really is a film about nothing and what can be resolved with that? The irony of that is the fact that something can even come out of nothing. This is how film-making is. It glamorizes everything even nothing.



Submitted by: Twinkerbell 070515

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