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In a Medieval Roman chapel, now an oratorio, an elderly factotum sets up for rehearsal. The musicians arrive, joking and teasing. A union shop steward explains that a TV crew is there, talking to them is optional, and there will be no extra compensation. Musicians talk about their instruments. The German conductor arrives and puts them through their paces. He yells, he insults. The shop steward calls a 20 minute break. The conductor retreats to his dressing room and talks about how the world of music has changed, moving away from respect for the conductor. He returns to the rehearsal to find the orchestra in full revolt. What can bring them back to the music? Written by
Some fully creditable critics deemed "Prova d'orchestra" as being Fellini's main masterpiece. Although recognizing their slight exaggeration, I still can fully empathize with their point. The movie is one of the most intelligent, stylish and personal instances of the much used (and abused) recipe of the "social microcosm". Of course, Fellini's trick to build up a parable of society by using the orchestra parallel is not only original, but also very efficient: the metaphors and symbols resulting from this are both powerful and humorous, in an atrociously satyric vein.
Also, it's very interesting to note the gradual glissando from realism to hyperbole, and from cold detachment to paranoid hysteria; as such, what started as a pseudo-documentary, impartial and technical, gradually turns into a major pandemonium, to culminate with the hallucinatory profiling of the demolition iron ball, as an omen of doom
that being the point where the artist really meets the divine, both
as meaning, and as means.
One should also notice the masterfully style of shooting the orchestra, the people and the instruments, to build up the cinematographic symphony layered over the musical one, and to create that irresistibly fast-paced narrative in images, that makes the movie so exciting and captivating - it's literally to be watched on the edge on your seat, although nothing more spectacular happens than an orchestra rehearsing in a disaffected church... all being the result of Fellini's skillful cinematography.
At last, one couldn't depart any reference to this masterpiece without mentioning at least in passing the haunting finale. Although I always regarded with political objectivity and historical honesty the national-socialist ideology, goals and means, I must confess that I fully assimilate Fellini's powerful warning about any dictatorial excesses. Balduin Bass' voice rising in a Hitlerian monologue is an efficient and pointed mean of expression and style - and his last line after fade out, "Signori... Da capo!", indeed MAKES A POINT!
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