Regent Film Library Spotlight: “8 ½”

“8 ½”, directed by Federico Fellini, is a surreal drama film. Its protagonist, Guido, is a troubled film director whose ambition is to create an honest film. However, Guido seems unable to find inspiration. His health is also in decline, which causes him to visit a strange medical clinic where holy water is administered. Guido avoids letting his wife, friends, actors, production crew, and producer know anything about the film aside from vague casting notes and strange instructions to build a giant rocket. Throughout the film, he attempts to make himself elusive to the people pressuring him for answers until he is dragged to the exorbitantly expensive rocket for an interview with a rabid press. 

“8 ½” is a confessional film, but it is also uniquely capable of standing on its own without including the significant details of the director’s life. It is a work on deception and honesty—on the medium of film itself. It addresses the complicated damages done by infidelity as well as the difficulties in repairing a maltreated relationship. Though the film lingers on moments of emotional tragedy and speeds erratically through sensorially bombarding scenes at a dizzying speed, it is tempered by a subtle sense of humor that becomes more evident on subsequent watches. 

The Regent University library owns a Criterion copy. While the booklet is missing, both discs are available. The special features include commentaries, introductions by Terry Gilliam, a 52-minute short film by Fellini, a 48-minute documentary titled Nino Rota: Between Cinema and Concert, and interviews with actress Sandra Milo, director Lina Wertmuller, and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. 

“8 ½” can be difficult to watch, especially for those who have not seen experimental or surreal cinema. Although the choices in the film are on the whole more purposeful than experimental, the first impression will likely be a perplexing one. “8 ½” is a film for older adults, as it deals with mature themes such as fatigue, nostalgia, and responsibility.