In the movie Le nottie de Cabiria, Cabiria is a prostitute. The movie starts with her boyfriend pushing her in the lake and stealing her money. She doesn’t deal with that fully. She is loud and abrasive and she doesn’t trust people. When something goes wrong, she just tunes it out. There is a clear amount of sadness, and she talks quite a bit about how she doesn’t really remember how she became a prostitute. It just sort of happened in her life. She is constantly vaguely looking for rejection in some sort of way. She doesn’t clearly know what she wants. She goes through a number of ordeals, but for a lot of the movie the ordeals are understated. Her boyfriend tries to kill her, but then she gets to hang out with a rich actor client. It ends up not really going anywhere though because his wife puts a stop to it. She then joins the Mary Procession, but she doesn’t find what she is looking for there.
The Mary Procession gives Fellini a chance to share his religious beliefs. Fellini always had a certain distrust of the Catholic Church. He considered himself a Catholic, but in a lot of his movies priests come off as bad people. For instance, in this movie, a friar does help Cabiria, and after she got married she went to the church to talk to the friar who helped her, but it turns out he was actually not a religious.
In general Cabiria was a deeply hurt person who masked it with resentment. Guilietta Masina created Cabiria’s character with a different tilt than the character she created in La strata. In La strata, Gelsomina, the character Masina played, was sweet and child-like, but in this movie the character she played – Cabiria, was loud and abrasive. It is interesting though that they both loved the men in their lives, even though they were cruel and abusive.
It seemed like the type of characters that Masina created was actually the origin that the next twenty years of independent movies would emanate from. Much of comedy in the years following these 1950’s films has its routes in her performances. “It has long been a critical commonplace in the literature on Fellini to emphasize how for Fellini, Giulietta Masina embodies a particular combination of mannerisms, facial expressions, and gestures reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin” (pg 16).
It was interesting that she could create her characters to suit her ideas, but yet she followed the script. Say in Le notti di Cabiria, Masina represented Cabiria as the character she was written up in the script to be. She was a girl who grew up in a brothel and was treated badly by the people in the brothel, and now she is being treated badly by people not in the brothel. The brothel buildings were ended, but the treatment of the prostitutes did not end, even though they went on to get work that was not prostitution. Masina brought this out very well.
As is usual with Fellini, images were more important in conveying the story than was dialog, and this suited Masina’s creation of Cabiria. The type of shooting also helped to create the character of Cabiria. Although it was shot more in the interior, there were also shots in the towns and in the forest. Particularly there is a scene wherein her fiancé is dragging her through the forest. There were more and more cuts in the forest, and it was getting more and more dangerous. This contributed to demonstrating the type of person that Cabiria was, that she just could not seem to sense the danger that she put herself in with her various men.
Question1: Discuss Fellini’s fascination with the world of cheap or poor entertainment (variety show, the circus) and explain how he uses it as a window on the human soul.
If there is ever an entertainer in a Fellini movie, the entertainer is not great. In general with other directors, whenever there is a movie about an entertainer he is always one step away from fame and fortune, but Fellini does not fall for doing this. In Fellini’s movies entertainers are always not great. This is part of the human condition. We are always yearning for something that we can’t really achieve.
Fellini liked to use circus type things in his movies, like masks and masquerades, and would look through them at life. “Fellini has always believed that there is ‘no dividing line between imagination and reality’ “ (pg152). His fascination with using images in his films bears this out.
Fellini was fascinated with circuses as a child, and his movie I clowns begins with an actor playing the adolescent Fellini visiting the circus for the first time. He sees the clowns there and then sees clowns all over his hometown. The movie ends up being in essence a documentary on the history of clowns.
What was also such a big part of Fellini’s growing up was his fascination with comics. An important aspect to the I clowns documentary is Fellini combining his love of comics with his love of the circus:
“The opening scene of I clowns shows a young boy waking up in the night and going to the window to see a circus tent being erected. While the director’s voice leads us to believe that this figure represents the visualization of his own past experiences, it should also not be forgotten, as previously mentioned, that this particular scene recalls a specific comic strip, “Little Nemo” by Winsor McCay” (pg185).
Fellini’s fascination with the circus and with clowns in actuality shows a fear that Fellini had, and maybe this is the fear that makes the fear of clowns so common place in the general population. Fellini does a voice-over in I clown stating hat “the young Fellini was terrified not by the clowns but by the fact that these grotesque figures had counterparts in his everyday reality” (pg 187).
Thus Fellini’s fascination with the world of cheap or poor entertainment (variety show, the circus) has roots in his childhood and adolescence, and he was able to use his movies to use these experiences to provide a window on the human soul.
Bondanella, Peter. The Cinema of Federico Fellini. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1992.