Fellini Satyricon

A few months ago, as is my custom, I left for work early and planned on killing the time at a nearby Italian cafe. On the way there, I decided to check out the branch library.


Fortunate as I was, they were giving away DVDs. One of the DVDs they were giving away was “Fellini Satyricon”.


This was one of my favorite films a long time ago. It depicted a polytheistic culture and was frankly sexual. (Sex was far more important to me in my 20s than it is today, go figure.) It also challenged societal norms, which also appealed to me more then than it does today.


If you’ve never seen this film, I can’t say that I’d recommend it.


I recall reading somewhere that Fellini wanted to treat Ancient Rome as if it was in a sci-fi film which seems about right. It is not a straightforward depiction of life in Ancient Rome.


To be frank, it is fucking weird.


The first half revolves around two rivals fighting over the teenage boy they both want to be with. The second half depicts the two rivals as close friends.


There’s no real coherent plot or aims. It’s just vignettes of these two people, in a very bizarre world.


It’s in Italian. I’ve only seen it in English subtitles. Even the Italian looks badly dubbed. Probably intentionally. There’s a minotaur and labyrinth, a hermaphrodite, a witch, a great feast and apparently Richard Simmons before he lost weight.


Music and language is used in a constantly disorienting manner. The makeup and costuming is spectacularly interesting and makes no sense. The general feeling is that of sensory overload in many parts.


Looking at it now, I have a great deal of problems with the depiction of black people and women. But I also realize that, by and large, this was still very progressive in the art-house theatres that would show it back in its day. I have a huge problem with the pedophilia but I also recognize that this was true to Ancient Rome.


From a religious standpoint, there are some interesting tidbits but it doesn’t seem as if there’s a great effort anywhere to be historically accurate. That was definitely not Fellini’s intention here.


It’s a frequently panned film for one of the great masters of international cinema but I feel as if he was successful. It succeeds in its excess and weirdness, in its visual sense. (Only Jodorowsky exceeds him in this.)


As an intersexed person, it was probably the first time I saw someone like me depicted in a film. That was a very big deal to me then. Also, the depiction was that of a demi-god. (Though one that seems to suffer from severe illness, both physical and perhaps mental…but reputed to have healing powers.)


Because of that and several scenes that have stuck with me over the years, it has a place in my heart, despite my issues with it.


Like I said, I wouldn’t recommend it to others because experimental film isn’t for everyone’s taste. Especially one with frequent nudity and sexual content that depicts pedophilia frankly.
It makes me uncomfortable. But I think it was meant to.

~ by R.M. McGrath on 05/22/2017.

One Response to “Fellini Satyricon”

  1. I’d like to see it again. Last time I was drunk (fittingly) and it just seemed like nonsense…but I remember enjoying the visuals.


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