18 – 8½ (1963)
Film review #18
Director: Federico Fellini
A film all about the trials and tribulations of being a film maker…
Guido Anselmi is trying to unwind and relax after his last film was a huge hit, however he just can’t seem to. He is surrounded and hounded by people who he has worked with in the past who want a role in his next film, and studio people, who are pressuring him into creating another big hit.
In this troubled period of his life, Guido starts to reminisce. We learn of his childhood, being brought up at a catholic school, and all the women he has loved and left, including his long suffering wife Luisa. He attempts to write a science-fiction film that is inspired by the events of his life, but finds that his life has been so full of twists and turns, that it is impossible to stick with one aspect or choice to use. He becomes increasingly frustrated by art, women and the film industry as the deadline approaches and everyone demands information about the upcoming movie, of which Guido still cannot make an artistic and resolved choice.
8½ is an Italian film directed by Frederico Fellini, his eighth and a half film (He had previously directed six films, two short films and collaborated on another, hence 8½), it is a thinly veiled autobiographical film about Fellini’s experiences in the film industry. I usually review science-fiction films, but this one is about making a science-fiction film, which is a little different, but still relates to my core research of taking a comprehensive look at science-fiction films as an art form and the issues and proposals they make.
This movie is very much about art and the life of the artist, specifically the film maker, but i think any sort of artist can relate to some of the things happening in the movie (I know I certainly did). The trouble of indecisiveness and being overpowered by everything one has seen and experienced in their life is a problem that every artist faces. Throughout the movie, we are posed these questions through the eyes of Anselmi and his suffering. Guido as the protagonist is someone who we are meant to sympathise and feel sorry for, as he is surrounded by “hangers on”, who want to take advantage of his fame. Though we are introduced to the numerous women of his life with whom he has had affairs with over the years, and how this has affected his wife Luisa, we are still directed to feel sympathy for Guido.
This film has a very surrealist aspect to it too. The film opens with a bizarre dream sequence, and throughout the movie, the film slips between reality, fantasy and flashback almost seamlessly, so it can be difficult to follow when reality ends and a dream begins, and making the narrative confusing, however, I do not think this detracts from the movies impact. Some of the set designs also evoke that essence of surrealism, in some ways similar to the way Last Year At Marienbad does, which was released two years earlier. 8½ was also an inspiration for Brazil in 1985, of which one of its working titles was 1984½ (A reference to the movie being influenced by 1984 and this).
8½ was released to universal acclaim, and regularly makes its way into lists of top films. It’s thought provoking, and philosophical nature is layered with the piling of imagery upon imagery which causes reality and fantasy to become increasingly blurred, and offers a powerful insight into the creative process, and perhaps bravely, it does not dilute it with any other plot devices or narratives, instead focuses entirely on the protagonist and what goes on in his head. Coming in at over 2 hours, it can get very confusing and exhausting to watch (I think it really started to pick up after about a hour, when I really got into it), but I think that any artist or creatively-minded person can connect with the philosophy of the movie, and if you have any sort of interest in the history of cinema, it is definitely worth a watch.