Eight And A Half Comments by Fellini

In the case of 8 1/2, something happened to me which I had feared could happen, but when it did, it was more terrible than I could ever have imagined. I suffered director's block, like writer's block. I had a producer, a contract. I was at Cinecittą, and everybody was ready and waiting for me to make a film. What they didn't know was that the film I was going to make had fled from me. There were sets already up, but I couldn't find my sentimental feeling.

People were asking me about the film. Now, I never answer those questions because I think talking about the film before you do it weakens it, destroys it. The energy goes into the talking. Also, I have to be free to change. Sometimes with the press, as with strangers, I would simply tell them the same lie as to what the film was about-just to stop the questions and to protect my film. Even if I had told them the truth, it would probably have changed so much in the finished film that they would say, "Fellini lied to us." But this was different. This time, I was stammering and saying nonsensical things when Mastroianni asked me about his part. He was so trusting. They all trusted me.

I sat down and started to write a letter to Angelo Rizzoli, admitting the state I was in. I said to him, "Please accept my state of confusion. I can't go on."

Before I could send the letter one of the grips came to fetch me. He said, "You must come to our party." The grips and electricians were having a birthday party for one of them. I wasn't in the mood for anything, but I couldn't say no.

They were serving spumante in paper cups, and I was given one. Then there was a toast, and everyone raised his paper cup. I thought they were going to toast the person having the birthday, but instead they toasted me and my "masterpiece." Of course they had no idea what I was going to do, but they had perfect faith in me. I left to return to my office, stunned.

I was about to cost all of these people their jobs. They called me the Magician. Where was my "magic"? Now what do I do? I asked myself.

But myself didn't answer. I listened to a fountain and the sound of the water, and tried to hear my own inner voice. Then, I heard the small voice of creativity within me. I knew. The story I would tell was of a writer who doesn't know what he wants to write.

I tore up my letter to Rizzoli.

Later, I changed the profession of Guido to that of film director. He became a film director who didn't know what he wanted to direct. It's difficult to portray a writer on the screen, doing what he does in an interesting way. There isn't much action to show in writing. The world of the film director opened up limitless possibilities.

The relationship between Guido and Luisa has to show what once was there between them and what is left over in their relationship. It is still very much a relationship, though it has undergone changes from the days of courtship and the honeymoon. It's difficult to show the bond between a husband and wife who married because of romance and passion, but who have now been married a long time. A friendship largely replaces what was there before, but not totally. It's a friendship for a lifetime, but when feelings of betrayal enter into it . . .

Marcello and Anouk are excellent actors who could pretend. I cannot say, however, that I minded that the two of them found each other so attractive. I think some of that was caught on the screen. Of course, Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg didn't find each other so attractive in real life, and certainly there wasn't anything going on between them, yet La Dolce Vita worked.

I had a different ending in mind for 8 1/2, but I was required to film something for a trailer. For this trailer, I brought back two hundred actors and photographed them as they paraded before seven cameras. When I saw the footage, I was impressed. The rushes were so good, I changed the original ending, which took place in a railroad dining car where Guido and Luisa establish a rapprochement. So, sometimes even a producer's request can have a beneficial effect. I was able to use some of the discarded material in City of Women. The segment in which Snaporaz thinks he sees the women from his dream sitting in his railway compartment was inspired by a segment of Guido thinking he sees all the women from his life sitting in the dining car, which was to have been the end of 8 1/2.

From I, Fellini (1995) by Charlotte Chandler. Reprinted by permission of the author.

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