H Hour Curfew Time April 2020

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Rimini, Fellinian Landscape

From neorealism to fantastic realism

If we ever were to ask ourselves, how do we want to live our lives, would we accept the offerings brought to our attention by technology, commodities developed to create desire, or will we attempt to trust our intimate vision and search for hope in the dreamy realms of the theater lights?

Federico Fellini knew the answer and he brought his vision of hope in his narrative style and surrealist characters to the big screen.

In his early days the neorealist rawness pervaded his works. Influenced by Roberto Rossellini, whom he assisted writing the screenplays for “Rome Open City” and “Paisà”, he soon broke out of the canons of Italian neorealism and conceived with “Lo sceicco bianco” the “first Italian anarchic movie” (cinema critic Callisto Cosulich, after seeing it at the Venice Film Festival 1952). This work from 1952 still shows Fellini’s bond to neorealist aesthetics, documenting the everyday life of a naive couple on their honeymoon in Rome, the eternal city. But reality never leaves enough space for fantasy. Soon then Wanda, the youthful spouse, escapes the marital tie pursuing her secret dream: meeting the starring actor (interpreted by a young Alberto Sordi) of a photo novel she avidly reads in her respite from domestic housekeeping duties. It is at that point that Fellini starts to betray neorealism transfiguring the urban landscape into a place filled with magic and dreamy sequences. The climax is definitely reached when Wanda finally finds her idolized Sheik rocking on a swing high in the trees.

In his ensuing works Fellini further distances himself from the strict neorealist canons of Rossellini and Visconti. He begins to work on the introspective elements, the innerliness, the inwardness, that mould his characters. His unique sensibility for spaces and surroundings is a crucial moment in this endeavor. The actors become part of these  scarcely illuminated locations: the abandoned seaside, the cemetery at night, the mist, the empty streets, the small villages. His seamen, thieves, vagabonds and circus people, especially this certain type of woman, the prostitute, became archetypes, common ground on which to construct the narrative of a healing society after World War Two.

Fellini reclaims for him the topicality of the traditional characters of the commedia dell’arte from 16th century Venice. Thus recreating the maschera, the Pierrot Lunaire, the universal costume, the ever present masque that offers a socially restricted amount of freedom to the wearing subject: it’s the Freedom of Il Matto in La Strada, of the White Sheik in Lo Sceicco Bianco, of the crazy outcast, allowed to express himself fearless of any consequences, accepted by his fellow peasants and citizens by virtue of his unrestrained humanity.

Fellini shared his bleak landscapes, his derelict buildings, where the events in his movies take place, with most of his neorealist contemporary peers: we spectators are confronted with the detriment on the streets, abandoned buildings, remains and mementos from the destructive force of the bombings.

It is in this barren landscape that we, the spectators watch Fellini’s masques; in their constant peregrinations between the different places, sometimes real, sometimes fantastic and dreamy, they acquire their exterior shape, their inner character. It is as if the places, they visit, become an integral part to their role, as if the urban or rural landscape formed their image as much as their spoken texts, their costumes, their relation to the others. How much did the bike, transformed into a pastiche, a collage of poverty, a circus wagon, shape Anthony Quinn’s figure in La Strada as the Zampano? It’s a question, but let’s assume it is an answer to our initial question.

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