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  • Writer's pictureRawan

8½ (1963) Federico Fellini's magnum opus


In the film "8½," Marcello Mastroianni plays the role of Guido Anselmi, a director who is struggling with creative blocks and barriers to inspiration in his new project. As Guido watches his whole project fall apart around him, he finds solace in escaping into his childhood flashbacks and his dream sequences. These sequences are visually audacious, sentimental, and exaggerated, and they transport the audience to a world where Fellini abandons realism for fantasy.


The first three minutes of the film introduce the audience to Guido's world and prepare them for a relatable journey. Guido is stuck in his car, and people are just watching him. This image is repeated throughout the film as Guido is commonly followed and pursued by people. As he tries to escape his reality, Guido ascends into the sky, only to be pulled back down to earth by a rope and then falls into the sea. This opening sequence is quite remarkable and sets the tone for the rest of the film, which emphasizes visuals over storytelling.


Guido's struggle to deliver something profound and meaningful is a central theme of the film. While he is facing creative blocks, he finds inspiration in his past, and his dream sequences allow him to escape from his current situation. These sequences are not only visually stunning but also provide the audience with a glimpse into Guido's mind and his innermost thoughts and feelings.


The film showcases Fellini's ability to create visually stunning sequences that transport the audience into a world of fantasy. The film's opening sequence sets the tone for the rest of the film, and the audience is taken on a journey that is both relatable and visually captivating.

Some critics have raised concerns that the audience may be unable to differentiate between what is real and what is only happening in Guido's mind. However, in my opinion, the film is brilliantly crafted and it is not difficult to distinguish between the two worlds. The film's pivotal turning point is when Guido escapes from his uncomfortable present into his dream world, which is portrayed in a surreal and artistic manner. The shift in atmosphere is quite evident and it helps the viewer to comprehend the difference between the two worlds.

Guido dreams, are not always real. Some are invited, others are real memories; on the memories we sense Guido feeling of guilt, especially when it is derived from his inability to meet certain expectations from his mother of being pure.

In one of his memories we meet Saraghina, Guido, aged about eight, escapes from the schoolyard to join his friends on an expedition to see her. Guido is pushed by his friends to dance with a her. However, before they finish, two strict priests from the school come looking for the absconder and capture him. Guido is taken back to the school where he is informed by the Father Superior that his act is a mortal sin. His mother, feeling disgraced by her son's actions, disowns him. Guido's classmates mock and ridicule him when he enters the class wearing a dunce cap and a sign that reads "shame." While his peers are eating dinner and listening to a priest read from the life of a devout saint who despised women, Guido is forced to kneel on corn kernels, causing him great pain.. In which we understand how Guido's Catholic upbringing has shackled his spirit.

Guido's imagination is a treasure trove of invented dreams and fantasies. Each frame of his creations is a visual feast that tantalizes the eyes and ignites the imagination. The use of rich, contrasting tones creates a mesmerizing experience that transports the viewer to another world. From the deepest, darkest blacks to the brightest, starkest whites, every element is carefully composed to create a voluptuous and rippling mosaic that captures the essence of Fellini's artistic style. The interplay between light and shadow is particularly captivating, drawing the viewer's attention to even the smallest details in each scene. Every visual cue is masterfully crafted to create a world that is as immersive as it is captivating, with each detail working in harmony to create a truly unforgettable cinematic experience that is sure to leave a lasting impression on anyone who watches it.

In conclusion, Federico Fellini's "8½" is an extraordinary masterpiece, a visually stunning and thought-provoking film that explores the themes of creativity, identity, and the struggle for artistic expression. The film not only presents a rich and complex story but also offers a feast for the eyes, with incredible cinematography, imaginative set designs, and striking costumes. Through the use of dream sequences and flashbacks, the film blurs the lines between reality and fantasy, challenging the viewer to question what is real and what is imagined, and inviting them to delve deeper into the story's underlying themes. The characters are all unique and memorable, each with their own quirks and personalities, and the acting is superb, with the lead actor perfectly embodying the character's struggles and inner turmoil. While the film may not be for everyone, it is a must-see for anyone interested in the art of cinema and the creative process, as it offers a rich tapestry of ideas, emotions, and visual delights that will stay with you long after the credits roll.






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