I’m not one for experimental, avant-garde film. Not just because I’ve seen very few films that would fall under that category, but also because I’d never considered myself actually falling in love with one of the many films that litter that genre. But 8 ½ was an experience like no other, and director Federico Fellini manages to craft one of the finest and most ground-breaking pieces of film the world will likely ever see. His frustrations as a creative culminate in a story about just that, the frustrations a director (played by Marcello Mastroianni) faces when creating his magnum opus.
Mastroianni’s performance is masterful, crafted perfectly in a way that both relates to and neglects the audience. Such brutally opposing themes are carefully explored. We can connect with that feeling of unrelenting passion and fierce optimism, but not having anywhere to place it. How we connect with the fictional director Guido Anselmi is entirely dependent on how much of a creative you yourself feel. He’s a man with severe faults though, Anselmi’s frequency to adapt adulterous behaviours is what keeps us from connecting with the character entirely.
His wife seems to know of all his dispositions, but never really deems them big enough to care until it reaches boiling point. Anselmi struggles not just with his film, but with his own life. It’s clear to see the influence 8 ½ has had on directors like Woody Allen, who strive to make films that contemplate life, death and everything that comes in the horrifying between. Its influence is a movie knows no bounds, providing comic references in The Guard and moral stability in Stardust Memories, two personal favourites of mine. Such a wild range of influence stems from 8 ½, it’s hard not to recognise where its tropes appear.
As a film though, and solely as a film, 8 ½ is a masterpiece. Its dialogue feels both real and versatile. It longs for the nostalgia ridden days before Anselmi felt such blocks from his work and family, while at the same time paving his way to redemption in stunning scenes of candidly fierce direction. Fellini’s direction, paired with Mastroianni’s performance is absolutely stellar, a resounding triumph that will leave the audience wanting more. With the supporting cast, the same level of quality can be found too, a great deal of performers solely to prop up Mastroianni’s beautiful display of endurance.
8 ½ is very much a movie for those of us that love movies themselves. Fellini directs the feature in such a way that his nods to the work that preceded him is adored, and the work he has inspired is well rounded. A corner stone for fans of cinema, and also those looking to create their own works in the field of film. A superb piece of film that words cannot do justice, a phenomenon that needs to be seen, rather than spoken about. A must see movie.