"8 1/2 (1963)" Movie review: Milestone in film history
Fellini blends thoughts with reality, abstract with rigid images, artistic and realism, and the visually fluid camera work are technical chef-d’oeuvre.
Just how this crazy idea even came to screen? How did director Federico Fellini manage to pull off this masterpiece? “8 ½ (1963)” is the avant-garde film that every director and writer dreams to make; if somehow their dreams come to reality, they may never reach close to this film. “8 ½ (1963)” is about a director struggling with writer’s block. Overwhelmed by his work and personal life, he has second thoughts about making the film. The immersive surrealist direction, timeless camera work, and the physiological and experimental plot make the viewers re-watch again and again, artists to inspire and critics to praise.
The title refers to the number of movies Federico Fellini had directed up to that time. Unclear about the script, he only recalls the outline to his film about a man suffering from a creative block; after his original idea had utterly gone, Federico Fellini intended to abandon the project. Then, out of the blue, Fellini got a crazy idea that he would narrate everything that had been happening to him at that time, about a film director who was going to direct a film but no longer knows what movie he wanted to make. That’s how we got this masterpiece.
The story follows Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni), a famous Italian film director, on the course of making his new science fiction film that has something to do with a spaceship and includes thinly veiled autobiographical references; he suffers from “director’s block.” Guido starts to wander through his memories from childhood to his parents to all the women he has loved and left. He struggles with his conscience to create an original unique idea.
Every script has an objective, obstacle, conflict, and outcome. Sure, some movies break those rules from structure to storytelling. In the case of “8 ½”, it breaks and reforms many of those rules. “8 ½” is a little hard to follow initially; the project of Guido Anselmi, something with the spaceship and his relationships, is unclear. While Guido struggles to finish the movie, he constantly deals with producers and people who are always distressing him for their own benefit, like media and cast. While simultaneously dealing with his personal relationships and getting lost in his childhood memories. To viewers not knowing where the film is going, we feel lost, like Guido Anselmi’s character. After thirty minutes or re-watching, the film repetitively pulls you in many directions; if you ever experienced writer’s block in any form of artwork, you’ll be immersed in the movie. If not least, you see a beautiful mess and the most remarkable experimental story ever made in film history.
What other way to present the struggles involved in the creative process, and symbolic, the realm of fantasy scenes than in surrealism. Fellini blends dreams with reality, abstract with rigid images, and the visually fluid camera work, are technical chef-d’oeuvre by that time, and still, it is. The mixture of parody to truthfulness, reality and dream, stylistic and realism, is marvellous, from childhood flashback scenes to symbolic dreams. No wonder this artistic, last black and white film from Fellini influenced by many greatest directors. 8 ½ considered a highly influential classic also won the Academy Award for best foreign-language film and best costume design.
“8 ½ (1963)” is not without any flaws. Like almost all Italian movies at the time, the sound was entirely dubbed later, making a lot of the film’s dialogue appear out-of-sync, making a distraction to the film. Twenty minutes into the movie, like many greatest old films, the technical issues disappear.