Every masterpiece is autobiographical.
8 1/2 is one of the most original and spellbinding films I know of. One of the beauties of cinema is to merge the artist’s memory and fantasy – Fellini certainly utilized this magic to present his story and characters that embody both humanity and mystery. This film is about a film-director named Guido, how his life is consumed by his increasing obsession with work. He avoids questions and problems as if they will go away somehow, only to experience more questions and problems. Ultimately, Guido realizes the only way to solve his problems is to face them rather than escaping, accepting himself instead of wishing he was someone else.
The opening dream sequence is most deftly crafted. Guido is trapped in a traffic jam. He loses his breath while unsuccessfully trying to escape from his car. People around (in their vehicles) are starring at him. The whole scene is mute except the constant monotonous sound, and, from time to time, it freezes. Suddenly, he is free, and flying towards sky. Then, one of his assistants pulls him down to earth. The sequence brilliantly captures Guido’s problems which are dealt with in the rest of the film and exposes them metaphorically – him stuck in traffic, trapped in smoke, suffocating, wanting to escape, and pulled back down by his peers.
Guido wants to make a film about his memories – how once upon a time he learned about a chant that moves pictures, and the time he danced with the fat feminine prostitute figure. The other main component of his movie involves launching into space, a fantasy that reflects Guido’s (and Fellini’s) desire to escape from worldly matters. While in real life, Guido is having problems with everything from his wife to his producers. So he thinks a beautiful actress, whom he fantasizes but knows little about, will be the solution to all his problems. When Guido meets the actress, he realizes she can’t solve his problems, only he himself has the choice. This realization leads to the film’s closure, with Guido having learned what’s important to him and the inevitability of taking responsibility.
Fellini’s women are indeed out of a different fantasy world. There is a scene – quarrel between Guido and his wife (played by Anuk Aimee) while sitting outdoors. She is complaining about his mistress(es) and he is denying everything. Then, his mistress (Sandra Milo) suddenly arrives and, after she saw Guido with his wife, sits to one table not so close. Guido’s wife noticed that and realized that woman is his mistress. So, she is continuing her quarrel with him. And then comes one of the most visceral and fascinating scenes in the Movie History. Suddenly, wishful fantasy starts… Guido’s wife stands up, coming towards mistress. They are kissing each other like longtime friends and making a nice conversation. Then, Guido enters his house from the childhood (which is shown before) with some presents in his hands. And, there are like 20 women around him fighting for his attention. He is whipping them. And there is his wife – peaceful, calm, loving. This is psychologically known as the regression to the pleasure principle.
At the end of the movie, he eventually becomes aware of the causes of his confusion and self-deceptions. As his producer merges into his father, his wife into his mother, 8 1/2 is a comedy and a tragedy, a satire and a celebration, a movie about love and about the lack of it, a movie about making art and a movie about living, an autobiography and the most challenging kind of fiction, a masterpiece of style and a movie that’s really about something. It’s not for everyone, but it should be, and it’s quite possibly one of greatest movies I have ever seen.