A Glimpse Inside the Unique Cinematic Style of Federico Fellini

Federico FelliniThe term "master filmmaker" gets thrown around quite a bit, but I can say without hyperbole that Italian director Federico Fellini is in fact a master filmmaker. With so many classics to his name, including his masterpiece 8 1/2 (1963), which covers subject matter that is often thought to be impossible to do well, making a film, the flamboyant director has become one of the most celebrated filmmakers of all time. His cinematic worlds of good-natured fools, early neorealist screenplays, and carnivalesque studies of society and human nature, blend and war to form the universe in which Fellini's unique sensibilities abide.

Fellini began his career as a screenwriter in the early 1940s, eventually writing for Italian neorealist filmmaker Roberto Rossellini -- ironic considering the direction in which he took his own films. His work is characterized by their fantastical nature and use of "The Fool" as his protagonist -- stylistic choices that weren't well received in his own country, which was, at the time, in the throes of the neorealistic movement.

His films have become iconic, La Strada (1954), La Dolce Vita (1960), and Amarcord  (1973) to name just a few, and have inspired a great number of great filmmakers, including Martin Scorsese. Below is a video of an early interview between Scorsese and Charlie Rose in which the two discuss Fellini's influence on the Mean Streets filmmaker:

As usual, Cinephilia and Beyond has shared some excellent material on Fellini -- an 1972 interview with Fellini entitled The Secret World of Federico Fellini. In it, the director explains his cinematic style, but also touches on something about his aesthetic that is so poignant and uncharacteristically forthright. When asked what fascinates him so much about "beauty" and "ugliness," Fellini replies:

That is a moralistic point of view. For me, the judgement is not that -- vulgarity or beauty -- from an aesthetic point of view -- things from a modern point of view it's very vulgar. From an aesthetic point of view, if he is a creator expressing himself with hands and [visionality] they appear beautiful.

Maybe reading what he said isn't the best way to grasp his point, but you can see and hear him talk about this at the 10:13 mark in the video. He goes on to explain that we as people are all "grotesque," but Fellini was a master at finding beauty in the grotesque by pulling back presuppositions and judgements in his films, and just allowing these "ugly" things to be human.

Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KXCLKXj6eA

Be sure to check out Cinephilia and Beyond's post, which contains more Fellini resources, photos, and videos.

How has Federico Fellini inspired your work? What's your favorite Fellini film? Let us know in the comments.

[via Cinephilia and Beyond]

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Years ago I worked as a young cinema usher, ripping tickets for Fellini's Casanova, a film I had never heard of. I did not really understand what I was seeing and found it repulsive, yet strangely fascinating. The incidental characters made an impression; a sense of great sorrow at the giant woman slowly gliding into the distance, and also the "comedy" sexual endurance scene at the look of silent despair on the woman's face. It was laced with all sorts of themes lost on me, but was one of the first films which made me aware there was a different kind of film world out there.

November 10, 2013 at 8:05AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


'Casanova' was the third movie directed by Fellini I saw, and it caused the same feelings of strangeness and fascination as described by Saied some threads above. The first two movies I saw on TV in my early adolescence. They were 'Fellini 8 1/2' and 'Juliet of the Spirits'. Needless to say I didn't understand a thing, but they caused a great impression on me. I was also initiated in a different kind of film world.

November 14, 2013 at 9:03PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Julio Cesar Pereira

"even if I make a film about a filet of sole, It would be about me"... Federico Fellini

November 10, 2013 at 10:34AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Anthony Marino

It's hard to pick a favorite film with this director, when so many of his films: 8 1/2, La Dolce Vita, La Strada, Amarcord (to name a few) have such memorable cinematic moments. His characters feel so human, that they stick with you, even when the rest of the movie has become unclear with time.

November 10, 2013 at 1:49PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


A little taste of La Dolce Vita - [ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEbYOtex2vI ]

November 10, 2013 at 8:25PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


beautiful films.

November 11, 2013 at 1:34AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


I just love Fellini ! Whenever I get depressed by all the trashy films coming out of Hollywood, I think of Fellini -
his films have so much passion, imagination and inventiveness with astonishing characters with a real zest for life. My all-time favorite book is Fellini on Fellini - a collections of quotes, anecdotes, insights, stories, observations, artistic and philosophical - an absolute feast for the soul. I think it's available on Amazon.

November 16, 2013 at 3:46PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Second video is unavailable?? =/ is it just me?

July 6, 2014 at 8:43PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


Thanks for another great article however all the lnks to Cinephilia lead to the Tumblr with no posts? also the second vid "does not exist"?


July 6, 2014 at 11:10PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


My favorite Fellini film was CITY OF WOMEN, one of the first feminist films ever made. It starred Marcello Mastroianni who played a businessman from Rome who was a womanizer who could not keep his eyes or hands off women. LOVED IT. There was a scene where Fellini filmed life and death, using a chute that went from an upstairs window in a mansion and floated Marcello down into a swimming pool representing the womb. Incredible filmmaking that will never be surpassed or equaled.

August 4, 2014 at 12:50PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

Geno Lawrenzi