A Review of Amarcord
a film by Frederico Fellini
which played recently at SIFF Cinema
by Joshua G.
Sometimes in order for people to advance their futures, one must examine one's past. This process is shown exquisitely in the film Amarcord by Federico Fellini. The film was made in 1974 and is wildly regarded as one of the classics of the foreign film category at the Oscars. The film is a meditation on Fellini's childhood, spanning a number of episodic segments stretching from spring to spring. However, the film can never be considered Fellini's memoir on celluloid, as the film playfully contradicts itself, and occasionally stretches into fantasy. The main character in the film is a young boy trapped in a dysfunctional family. The boy deals with issues such as life, death, and his own sexual awakening. When one thinks about a film compassing these bold topics, one imagines a film that can be depressing. The film is anything but depressing. The film has frequent moments of horribly immature humor from fart jokes and other incidents of bodily humor. All the characters seem to come off as individuals who might reside in the circus, including the priest whose first act of business at the young boy's confessional is to ask the boy to confess the last time he pleasured himself.
Fellini shot the film silent with the voices dubbed in at a later time. At points in the film, it is apparent that the words coming out of the actor's mouths are not what is being said on the screen. But, Fellini does not concern himself with perfection in his dubbing. He is more concerned with perfectly capturing the visual aspect of the story he is trying to portray. This is particularly poignant in some of the films striking images of beauty. At times, the images seem out of place amongst all the immaturity, were it not for Fellini's unique way of representing chaos. In most films chaos represents the apex of the story. But, in Amarcord, the moments of peace and tranquility appear to be the center of the piece. For example there is a moment where a peacock seemingly flies out of nowhere and lands in the snow. Of all the images in the film, this is the scene that I remember the most. Because amongst the perfectly orchestrated chaos where there are multitudes of people on the screen, everything seems disheveled. At the same time, one can tell that the director has control of each element. When the peacock appears, these are the moments that seem special because one believes anything can happen.
This film is not for everyone. It is filled with mania and off the wall humor. The film is very experimental in nature. It is the furthest thing away from typical that I have seen in recent memory. This might be a turn-off for some individuals, and to a small degree, myself included. But, for others, this would be the precise reason to enjoy the movie. If I were to select one thing that I did not like about the movie, it would be that the plot is barely present. After the film ended, I left my seat thinking, “OK.....what is next?”
However, upon further reflection, memories are much the same way. They do not necessarily follow a well orchestrated script. Individuals do not remember the precise sequence of events in our lives. But there are times that one remembers with vivid recollection each detail of a life event. For me, this is how the film came across, which I am sure was the director's intention.
The film ends with a funeral and a wedding which represents both the sorrow and joy in the passing of time. Reaching the end of my teenage years, feeling the weight of the passing of time, I often wonder what I am going to remember from these days of my life. It is questions like these that are the most frustrating as they have no easy answers. Watching Amarcord, I realized that through Fellini's last attempt to deal with and reach back into his past, I received one of the closest answers I am ever going to stumble upon to answer the question of what I might remember from my youth.
Amarcord experienced a short run at SIFF Cinema begin on January 2nd through the 8th but the film is semi-widely available for rental or purchase, at least as far as foreign films from the 70's go.