In 1914, a luxury ship leaves Italy in order to scatter the ashes of a famous opera singer. A lovable bumbling journalist chronicles the voyage and meets the singer's many eccentric friends and admirers.
In first century Rome, two student friends, Encolpio and Ascilto, argue about ownership of the boy Gitone, divide their belongings and split up. The boy, allowed to choose who he goes with, chooses Ascilto. Only a sudden earthquake saves Encolpio from suicide. We follow Encolpio through a series of adventures, where he is eventually reunited with Ascilto, and which culminates in them helping a man kidnap a hermaphrodite demi-god from a temple. The god dies, and as punishment Encolpio becomes impotent. We then follow them in search of a cure. The film is loosely based on the book Satyricon by Gaius Petronius Arbiter, the "Arbiter of Elegance" in the court of Nero. The book has only survived in fragments, and the film reflects this by being very fragmentary itself, even stopping in mid-sentence.Written by
Steven Pemberton <Steven.Pemberton@cwi.nl>
The earth has not managed to swallow me into the abyss nor has the sea engulfed me with its raging storms. I have fled from the law and escaped the arena. I've even stained my hands with blood only to end up here, destitute, exiled from my country, abandoned!
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Free is the word here in Fellini - Satyricon, adapted from the ancient book by Petronius that is considered to be the first novel ever written. However, only fragments remain, and Fellini made a wise choice in creating the film to move forward as the book does. The plot is told in episodes, where characters move from one scene to another without explanation, where things change and there really is no reason for anyone to do anything.
Yet, in that sense, Fellini captured what Ancient Rome was all about. These people are morally and spiritually hopeless; they feel life is so short that there is no reason to attempt to have what would be considered a "normal" life, so essentially anything goes. This mostly explains the ideas of rampant sexuality, human sacrifices and bloody violence as entertainment. These are the underworld elements of a civilization on the brink of destruction from the inside out, where life is cheap.
Despite this morbid subject, Fellini is able to create such a vivid and wild visual style, that it is arresting no matter what the actors are doing in the shot. His use of bright colors on sets and costumes creates a feeling of excitement and joy even if it is a disturbing sequence. I really cannot recommend anyone to watch it despite its cinematic beauty, but if you appreciate cinema as more than just entertainment perhaps it would be worth your time. I have heard this film called a masterpiece while others think its deplorable and depraved. It's actually both, but it is total Fellini.
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