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The 10 Best Scenes in Federico Fellini Films

15 June 2016 | Features, Other Lists | by Eddie Cai

best scenes in Fellini films

Federico Fellini is a name that almost any film buff will know, and one that is unanimously respected in the world of film. Of all of the famous directors who are now held to be film canon, Fellini built himself a reputation of being larger than life, which is something that he expressed through his films.

One of the key aspects that defined Fellini’s works were his ability to utilize the power of filmmaking to his advantage. His films are usually dominated by surrealistic imagery, chaotic events, and even more chaotic music composed by Nino Rota.

Fellini’s impact on cinema was legendary, as almost every major director has complimented and admired his work. These include the great Ingmar Bergman, Andrei Tarkovsky, Akira Kurosawa, Alfred Hitchcock, David Cronenberg, David Lynch, and Stanley Kubrick, who has even noted that of all filmmakers, Fellini is one of the few that one should become entirely familiar with.

The reason why Fellini was so important was that he firmly placed cinema on a pedestal to rival all other art forms: he proved that cinema was truly capable of expressing anything, and that there were no limits when it came to filmmaking. The lasting impression that the late Italian master left on the world of film was that anything is possible—a noble and important thing to remember for any aspiring filmmaker or film buff.


10. Marcello’s encounter with his father from La Dolce Vita

Marcello's encounter with his father from La Dolce Vita

Anyone familiar with Fellini’s works will know that the director had issues with regards to his relationship with his father. In 8 ½ , we are explicitly shown this when Guido attempts to speak to his father from beyond the grave during one of his dreams. Although powerful, the references to Fellini’s relationship with his father are much more powerful in La Dolce Vita.

Earlier in this vignette, Marcello’s father leaves him and Paparuzzo in order to “hang out” with the dancer they meet at a club. When they were at the club, the characters enjoyed a series of live-entertainment performances from clowns, showgirls, and other random acts—traits that reappear constantly throughout Fellini’s works.

Why does this matter? In the following scene, Marcello’s father is seen facing the window with his hair unkempt and messy, which matches the hair of the clown from the club. Here, Fellini juxtaposes two images and asks the audience to make the interpretation. The conversation that takes place between Marcello and his father further expresses Fellini’s longing for a healthy relationship with his father.

Marcello begs and pleads for his father to stay in Rome for a little longer. “Listen, won’t you stay tomorrow too? Please stay another day”. “I’ll take the day off tomorrow; we could spend the day together”. Nevertheless, his father remains adamant about his decision to leave, and abandons Marcello yet again. It’s a sad scene, but one that also expresses the deep longing that we all have for a solid family foundation.


9. Entering hell from Fellini Satyricon

Entering hell from Fellini Satyricon

In terms of content and meaning, Fellini Satyricon might not be among the director’s best works. The film is purposefully confusing, mirroring the age-old Greek epics where characters would freely interact with the Gods. Yet, Fellini Satyricon presents the story in a way that keeps the Gods hidden and silent.

Narratively speaking, the film barely makes any sense: characters randomly disappear, certain characters are killed and then suddenly are still alive, and startling visuals make their way onto the screen in a hellish whirlwind of chaos and absurdities. Still, the story presses onwards. It feels as though the Gods purposefully intervened in the story, but we’ll never know. The original text that the film is based on also exists in fragments, a state that the film chooses to adopt as well.

Although Fellini Satyricon isn’t Fellini’s best picture, it does have one thing going for it that makes up for the film’s confusing storyline: images. The world of Satyricon is hellish and alien—but features human characters.

Sometimes, characters will be walking across desert fields underneath a sky that is purple and green; other times the world is so drenched in gluttony and chaos that the film literally feels like a depiction of hell. Take for example the sequence that follows after Encolpio takes back Gitone from the strange pig helmet wearing man earlier.

As the two walk through a dark tunnel, Fellini takes the audience through a tour of the film’s underworld—whatever it is. This particular scene offers no dialogue; instead, we are barraged with an onslaught of strange images. People in strangely colored rooms are doing strange things. It’s hard to explain why this scene is so great without simply showing the clip; the effectiveness of the scene is almost entirely visual, as is the rest of the film. For those who have seen Satyricon, I’m sure that you’ll agree.


8. Ending from Juliet of the Spirits

Juliet of the Spirits

Much like Fellini Satyricon, Juliet of the Spirits features Fellini at the height of his orgiastic expression. While in La Dolce Vita and 8 ½, scenes of chaos were ultimately dampened by the black and white medium, Juliet of the Spirits is exploding with color. Throughout the film we see Giulietta’s visions of the spiritual world come to life, as pirates and monsters dance onto the screen in silence; the surrealistic imagery is chaotic and unfiltered.

Juliet of the Spirits plays out like the female companion piece to 8 1/2: here, we see the story from the wife’s point of view. Dealing with her unfaithful husband, Giulietta begins to conjure up the spirits that she has always had an ability to see. At the climax of the film, Giulietta’s spirits become increasingly manic and chaotic. She retreats into her bedroom and sees a vision of her mother standing in her room.

Giullietta hears someone crying and immediately thinks to go help them, but her mother adamantly tells her to stop. In a decisive display of independence, Giulietta defies her mother and effectively takes control of her life; she will no longer be the victim of her past, or to the spirits.

What follows is a brilliant display of surrealistic imagery, as the spirits begin to fade away after Giulietta is able to free her child-self from the shackles of religious oppression. In a way, Giulietta has liberated herself, and is finally free of all the things that used to haunt her.


7. Party scene from I Vitelloni

Party scene from I Vitelloni

Fellini’s I Vitelloni is an extremely personal film from a director who often sought inspiration from memories. The film tells the story of several fresh adults who enjoy squandering away their lives while partying and feeling like kings inside of their small hometown. Nowadays, stories of “big-fish, small pond” characters trying to break out of their small-town cage are everywhere; however, none of them are I Vitelloni.

One of the reasons why I Vitelloni is one of the best films on adolescence is because of Fellini’s personal touch to the film, and how it resonates on a personal level with anyone who feels lost. This film is perhaps one of the earliest examples of Fellini taking inspiration directly from his life: the characters are supposed to be Fellini’s friend group at that age, with the character Moraldo standing in as a young Fellini.

The stand-alone scene from I Vitelloni is the film’s most personal, most introspective, and most heart-breaking. After the gang of misfits indulge in an evening of drink and dance, Alberto is the only one that remains on the dance floor until the morning after.

What once began as a hurricane of sound, movement, and images, now is at a low-point, as the after-party looks bleak and dull. As Alberto dances with a makeshift clown head, he pauses and makes a silent realization. He looks at the clown, and then bows his head down, slowly making his way out of the party hall.

Alberto’s realization reflects the moment of clarity that many people face throughout their lives. Feelings of fear, anxiety towards the future, and fears towards life’s randomness are all summed up in this scene, as Fellini subtly tells us that all parties must come to an end. Even in his drunken stupor, Alberto is able to realize life’s futility; after taking a step back, it’s easy to recognize this scene’s particular meaning and importance to everyday life.


6. Tree climbing from Amarcord

Tree climbing from Amarcord

Amarcord is perhaps one of Fellini’s most nostalgic and personal works. Taking place in the director’s home town, the film takes an episodic look at the history and legends of the setting. Here, Fellini is at his most reminiscent, as the film is literally a presentation of a town’s stories that are fleshed out and made to be fantastic.

One of the best scenes from Amarcord takes place when the family decides to bring Teo, Aurelio’s brother. As the family enters the countryside, Teo manages to climb up a tree—yes, a tree. Hilariously, he refuses to come down, and attacks all those who try to force him to come down with rocks. Why is he doing all of this? Because he wants a woman.

Whether or not this scene stems from Fellini’s memories is not important; what is important is that the scene feels so absurd—so strange and hilarious—that it must have been true. Think back to the crazy stories of childhood that you probably have stored up: most of the time, these memories seem surreal, and yet, you know them to be true. The same goes for all of Amarcord. Fellini has taken stories, myths, of his childhood town and has enlarged them to fit comfortably on the big screen.

This scene in particular captures absurdity perfectly, as members of the family try to bring Teo down: some people are laughing, some are screaming, and some are simply enjoying the show. When Teo throws rocks down at people trying to get up, we are reminded of the humor found in silent films. Later, when Aurelio unleashes his frustration, the situation gets even funnier. With Amarcord, Fellini made clear will always remember where he came from.



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