Fellini’s Satyricon (Federico Fellini, 1969)
The films of Federico Fellini always have been intriguing and mysterious because every first viewing of his films I feel like I’m entering in a different world than mine. Not only the imagery but also the narrative and the acting. It is always like the feeling of being in a dream-like universe. The first film from Fellini I saw was his Casanova with Donald Sutherland. It’s time for an anecdote: when I came back from my one month trip in Italy in 2006 my flight from Paris to Montréal had a special passenger: Mr. Donald Sutherland. The funniest thing about this little moment was that I knew who he was and I loved his presence in Casanova, Don’t Look Now, 1900, etc. But everyone was shouting this is Jack Bauer’s father! For Odin’s sake’s this man is a living legend don’t insult him by saying that he is the father of the flavour of the moment! Recognize the man at least!
I discovered many Fellini films before I started this blog, so this is why this is one of the first reviews about his work. Satyricon was the first film of Fellini I ever bought, the Antic Roman settings and the name of the movie (I am a fan of the band of the same name) were the two magnets that got me and my hard earned money. Opposed to many Italian and American peplums that tried to recreate with precise details the past, Fellini’s Satyricon is the perception of the Roman Empire by Fellini himself. This is his fantasy about this time and age. It may sound a little pompous but for the neophytes out there Federico or affectively Fefe had an incredible imagination and his creations are inimitable. This creativity is characterized by a childish approach to everything, many of his imagery is taken from his memories and his impressions as a kid on how he used to perceive and see life.
Far from being his most accessible work, Satyricon did not have standard narration neither does it have appealing characters. It looks like a freak show set in Ancient times. It is raw, bizarre, and beautiful at the same time. But like many unique films, this Fellini is a masterwork of cinematic brilliance and mise en scène. Even if it’s not considered as a major work from his oeuvre I still think that film has a special aura of greatness and weirdness. Moreover, Satyricon is a very personal film made by the genius vision of Federico Fellini.