Starring-Britta Barnes, Peter Gonzales
Reviewed June 5, 2017
Fellini’s Roma is a trippy experience through Rome during two differing time periods. As with all Fellini films, the film is meant to be experienced rather than analyzed. One must nestle into the life that Fellini offers on screen- in this instance the fabulous city of Rome, Italy in both positives and negatives. The experience was very good for me, as both a world of odd characters and of ancient Rome oozed from the screen in appealing and absurd fashion.
From a plot narrative- there is really not one. In fact, arguably the only character portrayed is, in fact, Rome herself. The film takes place in both the 1930’s as well as the 1970’s, and is said to be an autobiographical tale of director Fellini’s experiences growing up in Rome. We see little Fellini as a youngster, experiencing the vast city for the first time and as a teenager now living in the city. Interestingly, the film traverses from both sets of time periods back and forth with really no rhyme nor reason.
Throughout the film, we see both the beauty and the ugliness of Rome- the majestic Colosseum and the dirty entrails of the gloomy city. Scenes of seedy brothels, mainly in the 1930’s, and a myriad of strange and scantily clad females prance before the cameras looking for a lucky score amid the droves of men lusting after them. Another depicts a fashion show, of sorts, taking place at the Vatican, involving nuns and priests in bizarre costumes.
The 1930’s setting is my personal favorite. Gritty, cold, and harsh, the bleakness of Rome is depicted. Unsurprisingly, this has much to do with the historical time period. Since Mussolini was in power, and on the eve of World War II, the darkness is apparent. In a frightening scene, bomb sirens wail as a women shrieks in panic. The brothel scenes are downright creepy and the subsequent theatre scenes involving drunken, rowdy, young men leering and cursing at the entertainment, is a peculiar slice of life sequence.
In contrast, the 1970’s sequences are layered with more beautiful depictions of the city. Brighter colors are depicted, and there appear to be either scientists or explorers digging into ancient ruins and finding gorgeous art that is subsequently ruined by the blowing air. We also see hippy types basking in the sunlight. Again, much of this film is largely open to interpretation.
I adore Fellini’s Roma in terms of an expression of the city of Rome as an art form, but the film is highly unconventional- another plus for me. Sure, I may have desired to learn more about the bevy of creepy and potentially interesting characters, but I finished the film with an appreciation of Rome, unlike none I have ever known.
A startling final scene, in which legendary Italian film star, Anna Magnani, appears scantily clad, implied to be a prostitute, was filmed shortly before her untimely death at the age of sixty-five.
As a film, Fellini’s Roma is a wonderful history lesson, but also a lesson in interpretation and film appreciation. Most film goers are accustomed to a begin, middle, and an end, as well as some semblance of plot. Roma contains none of that, but rather, is mind opening and still fresh many years after its release, which is a true testament.