Throughout my time at film school, there were certain movies that throughout the years and in pretty much every class were taught as canon. These were the movies that are the basis of what it means to study and appreciate film wether you liked the movie or not. One of those movies that was talked about to death was Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2. Now, even though I heard a lot about his movie in school, I never had to actually watch it while I was there. That’s really no excuse for it taking me this long to see it, but better late than never. I went in trying to tell myself how it goes with these movies that are praised in school, and was expecting either something really great or a movie that disappointed me and made me question what people see in it.
Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni) is an Italian film director who is going through the worst case of “director’s block” that he has ever experienced. Unfortunately for him, and everyone else involved in the movie, they have passed the point of no return with obnoxious sets already built for the movie and actors already hired for certain parts. The screenplay is written and the producer is anxious, but that just isn’t enough to motivate Anselmi to do anything with this movie. Instead, he begins to hide within his own thoughts and memories from when he was a kid to things that he wishes would happen to change the out come of the movie. Finally, his biggest distractions come from the women that fight and argue over him including his “loving” wife Luisa (Anouk Aimée) and his mistress Carla (Sandra Milo).
The story to 8 1/2 may be a little hard to follow for some, as it sort of was for me, because day dreams and flashback get mixed together so much that we aren’t really sure what’s real or not at some points. That’s the best part about this movie, in my opinion. We, like Guido, are feeling very disconnected from reality and losing ourselves in his many different mental barriers that he puts up to defend himself from the people around him. This makes for a very strange and often complicated movie, but now here comes the kicker that may make people get all in a fuss. 8 1/2 is a great movie, and I recognize that completely, but I feel no desire to ever watch it again.
In my defense, as I was watching the movie, I knew what I was watching was and is objectively remarkable. Anyone who watches this movie and isn’t impressed by everything that happens from the dreamlike atmosphere to the often witty dialogue has something wrong with them. The mood of this movie definitely feels like a director’s nightmare with him being surrounded by all of these people that he knows he can’t deal with but will inevitably have to. Right from the start, everything felt odd, and Fellini keeps that feeling throughout the movie. All of the actors, especially Mastroianni, are really great and really funny. They deliver their lines quickly and effectively. The real wonder is how the film is shot. Fellini takes full advantage of the black and white to create scenes that may be as bright as day but also be surrounded in darkness.The main reason anyone should see 8 1/2 is simply how beautiful the movie looks.
But, and this is a big but, my main motivation for watching movies is to have fun. When a movie mixes beauty and fun, it’s the perfect combination. For me, I didn’t have enough fun watching 8 1/2 to really want to watch it again, especially with a run time that goes for almost two and a half hours. There were scenes, as beautiful as they were, that went on for far too long and even when they didn’t I just found myself losing interest in the story. It just kind of wanders from scene to scene, which is more than likely how Fellini intended it to be, but that doesn’t always do it for me. I like films that have more motivation to their scene structure and this movie doesn’t really have that. I know that it isn’t supposed to due to its content, but I still can’t forget about that and say that I was completely entertained for the entirety of the movie.
The best way to put this is that I would definitely watch scenes from this again, but I don’t feel like I’d put 8 1/2 on myself for its entirety. This is a really amazing movie when you think about it, and that’s why I wasn’t disappointed by it or questioned its status as a classic that is praised by critics and audiences for over 50 years. I understand why it is and I agree, but other than my appreciating it I didn’t really have fun with it, and that’s important to me. I’m not saying that anyone who hasn’t seen this shouldn’t watch it because they definitely should due to its relevance and its beauty.