8 1/2 and nine

I was sitting here this afternoon, watching previews online for the upcoming film Nine, which is a sort-of remake of/homage to Fellini’s 8 ½, a classic and one of my favorites of all time (it comes out at Christmas). But I was trying to figure out just why that was – what about it is so imperfectly beautiful to me, makes me feel like (although it’s in Italian) it’s in my own personal language, it’s not just a movie that I get, but I feel like it’s a movie that gets me. Do you have a film that’s like that? I can only hope that you do.

So I was trying to boil it down, unravel the story in my mind and all the fantastic singular moments. And what I realized is that it’s a film without a love story. It has romance, and it’s sexy, and it has a marriage and an affair and countless fantasies, but it commits to the person at the center of them, not to one particular relationship working out. And maybe that’s what makes it special, different. The film is a whole series of relationships and plotlines (much like La Dolce Vita), with no definitive answer of which is right – and isn’t that how most of us experience our choices? We have options, ups and downs, but ultimately the one we’re committed to is ourself, married, divorced, parent or not.

I don’t like most film love stories, where you’re rooting for the couple to finally get together, or to break up for good and finally be happy on their own. I mean I watch them, because that’s what most films are like, but they’re not my ideal. I can’t get wrapped up in the romance of it. Because life isn’t like that, the happy ending is a lie. Not to say that there aren’t ways to end up happy in life, but the next morning after that Hollywood happy ending, the characters would wake up, and maybe they’d be stressed because of work, or maybe they’d argue and make up all over again, and that’s just the way it is. Maybe five years down the road they’d divorce, and that would be the right thing at the time too.

But 8 ½ isn’t like that. It’s about work and love all wrapped up together. It’s about uncertainty and indecision and inaction and misdirected passion, and those moments when you know you’re moving in the wrong direction but you don’t know how to get out. As abstract as it is, it is so real. The final scene of the film (and I’m not giving much away here) is a sort of parade of all the people in the life of a single mind – the ones you let down, and the ones who were never really there at all – and isn’t that how we all are? No matter what we always have all our memories, all our relationships and accomplishments and failures, there, co-existing and pulling us in different directions, no matter where you place the arbitrary curtain drop in your story. And maybe it’s just me, but there’s something imperfectly beautiful about that.

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2 responses to “8 1/2 and nine

  1. “No matter what we always have all our memories, all our relationships and accomplishments and failures, there, co-existing and pulling us in different directions, no matter where you place the arbitrary curtain drop in your story. And maybe it’s just me, but there’s something imperfectly beautiful about that.”

    I could not agree more. I do not think it is that the happy ending is a per se lie, but that this paradigm (of everything coming together into a neat and tidy resolution) is far too simple. Real life is far more textured and imperfect – and more compelling too.

    As a lover (and writer) of character-driven fiction, I also love when a narrative commits to the evolution of a person rather than the trajectory of her love story.

    Thanks for making me think. Now I need to go find a film that, as you say, “gets me.”

  2. Pingback: essential reading and viewing list when you move to italy « unfettered youth

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