3 ½

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Essay for the “Film Studies” class at Newark Academy (Mrs. Stephanie Acquadro)

(about famous Fellini’s movie “8 ½”)

I open the computer screen with intention to crack Guido/Fellini’s enigmatic journey and then I understand that really I have no idea as to what to write this essay about, or how to write it. Should I write about how autobiographic Fellini’s “8 1/2″ is, and about what sets in the film make Guido (or Fellini) decide to accept the reality of his life’s struggles? Or should I write about how Guido resolves to learn some lessons from his experiences? If I mention something about how much I hate this confusion and the torture of coming up with a single idea about the film studies, will Mrs. Acquadro still give me a decent grade? Or, perhaps, I should write about the connections between existentialism, neo-realism, and liberalism in politics? My dad is asking me, when I will finish writing this essay, and my dogs are anxiously waiting for me to walk them, my mother is reminding that the dinner is on the table. The total chaos is in my head, the mess is around me, and then I realize how similar this is to the film I am writing about. 8 ½ is a film about creative process, about the uncertainties, about confusion, about how it all interferes with the life of the artist and his own problems, and about how it finally comes to resolution when, in the course of this torturous journey, suddenly the brilliant idea crystallizes from the dark sub consciousness to the bright light and the moment of resolution comes. So I guess I will write this essay simply about writing it, and ignore all the criteria about how to write good analytical papers, the proper paragraph structure, and make it a true and honest work, and hope I’ll get to the bright star of excellence.

The essay topic questions about one or two key sets to define Guido’s journey toward accepting the reality and escaping from confusion. I watch the film to find those sets and see that I can pick more then one or two. In the set with his mother and father, which is of course pure fantasy, Guido with his own hands lets his father to descend in the tomb, giving in to reality. Isn’t it a step in his journey? Or, in the scene at the hotel lobby, when everybody is frantically attacking Guido and spurring the chaotic deluge of multilingual questions, he tries to escape but then, eventually, gives up and attempts to find coherent answers to that chaos. Doesn’t it look like a step in mastering confusion? Or, the spa set, when Guido’s is dressed-up to see the cardinal, of which he expects to hear the moment of truth, but instead he sees the very old naked man ostensibly preaching the triviality. What can be better image of grapping with reality? But then, there will be more sets ahead, and even more important. Should I discard these findings and move ahead? Or, maybe, no? Why should a journey be explained by two steps? Well, I keep what I found and go ahead looking forward to find more.

I want this essay to be a very good one, a sincere one, to reveal some interesting and simple truth about Fellini’s 81/2 (and to get a good grade!). My desire is similar to that of Guido as he expresses it to his older sister Rosella in the first set at the construction site, when the rest of the crew goes up the structure Fellini ordered to build. He said in this scene that he wanted to make this film an honest film, with no lies, for it to have to say something important to everyone. He thought he had something very simple to say, but confesses to his sister that he really is so confused that he has no idea what to make his film about. The way the scene is set up cannot be better to convince us. We see the bright spots of light, the construction elements, the close-up of Rosella and then the close up of Guido. But instead of his face we see only his hat. He is so ashamed and perplexed that does not want us to witness his face expression. Now, how can I write a good and clear essay about a film, the director of which is confused himself about his creation? This scene with Rosella is a defining moment for Guido. He is very honest and sincere to his sister, who in turn offers him an important piece of advice: he has the liberty to make choices, and has to hurry to make them. The camera rush to emphasize the importance of her words by shooting up and showing This is, I think, is the crucial turning point in Guido’s journey. He realizes that the confusion he is in is of his own making: he is responsible for it. I realize that my struggle with this essay is because of my own lack of understanding the film, but there is nobody to help me except the TV screen and film’s DVD.

So, now that I see a mess in my head is of my own creation, how should I write this essay? Well, I will write it, simply, about what I understood in Fellini’s “8 ½” after watching it a second time, a third time, or, maybe, some scenes even more (somebody told that to truly appreciate this film you need to see it several times), and reflecting about it, and not relying on philosophical criticisms of “8 1/2″ that I found in abundance on the internet, most of which I do not understand anyway. I turn on the player one more time, scroll through the screens again and again and decide that most important point of Guido’s journey is the final set.

In the final scene of “8 1/2″, that starts from press conference, in which the chaos and mess reaches such unbearable magnitude that Guido hides under the table to escape from the press and attempts to kill himself, he decides he’s got enough of it and wants to quit. The critic rambles on in intellectual jargon, about how Guido is doing the right thing by quitting work on this film because, according to him, what is not perfect should be destroyed. Then, still on the background of monotone critic’s bragging and the camera showing the start of demolition of the structure the moment of revelation comes. It comes in the image and words of magician: “we are ready to begin”. Guido goes into a flashback or fantasy, where he sees various people from his life: his parent, Carla, Claudia, all smiling and walking somewhere. It’s not the end, it’s beginning. This is when Guido realizes how beautiful was the confusion around this film, and decides to capture this confusion into the film we have been watching all along. What brings Guido to this resolution? Perhaps he sees how non-sensical the words of the film critic really are. Perhaps he decides to protest against the irrelevant preaching of the priest and the annoying questions of the press. In this last set, I think Guido takes his sister’s advice, to accept things the way they are, and to exert his liberty in making choices. Guido chooses to capture the confusion he has been having with his film and with his life, and to show how beautiful it is.

When we began watching this film in class, I understood nothing of it. There were scenes seemingly unrelated, completely unrealistic hallucinations. Only after thinking about it and watching it again and again in order to write this essay did I realize what a masterpiece it is. It’s not your typical, clear cut, happily-ever-after movie. Rather, it’s an honest look at the realities, confusions, and beauty in life. 8 ½ is a truly beautiful film.

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