Thursday, November 13, 2008

The 'Beneficial Aspect of Neurosis'

There is a film that has been aired a few times on cable television recently. Unfortunately, I miss the start of it each time and am catapulted in the middle of it. By some weird irony, it is roughly at the same point in the narrative that I discover films again and again on television. My 'internal clock' apparently does not march to the same rhythm as HBO, Showtime or Cinemax... or any of the other channels that show films regularly.

This particular film is a sort of tribute cum biography for Federico Fellini. As a very young girl, I was introduced to Fellini's films when my Mum took some film classes and made me her companion to view her 'assignments' at the local art cinema. Many of his images therefore transferred themselves to the depths of my own psyche, to take on the complexion of myths and symbols with the rest of the 'collective unconscious' lurking somewhere at the bottom of our dreams and nightmares. My childhood horror of clowns and extremely obese women probably was fed by images produced by Fellini.

Fellini was not of my generation and his recurring concept of female power and beauty is alien to me, especially when clothed in the styles of the 1950s and early 1960s. Nonetheless, like Jean Cocteau, he was a true visionary who used the medium of film to deliver inchoate perceptions of eternity and the realm of the unconscious into the light of day. Like any child, his visions once born grew and matured, mutating even somewhat with the times. Au fond, though, most artists are blessed or cursed with some specific symbols and obsessions that they never exhaust or have the ability or drive to quite break free.

In any case, interviews with Fellini were interspersed with clips from his films in the film, which was entitled 'Sono un Gran Bugiardo', which translates in English to: 'I am a Great Liar!'

Every great artist, of course, is a 'great liar' in the sense that they have the ability to convince the audience of their visions, to sweep aside the brittle curtain of bare fact and engage the world in alternative version of reality. This film was perhaps more interesting to me even than his actual films because it dissected his soul and the very soul of art itself.

There is no doubt whatsoever that Fellini is one of the most brilliant filmmakers of all time. His philosophy and thoughts about reality and art are as profound and original as one might expect from the man who produced 'Satyricon' and 'Juliet of the Spirits'.

Fellini was extremely fascinated with symbolism, ritual and the nature of perception and reality. He was enamoured of artifice, but declared that:

'Making a fake sea, a fake meadow, a fake storm. All this faking, this representation - probably unconsciously - is merely a repetition of a kind of magic ritual.'

He spoke of his great admiration for Jung, for the master who forced individuals to go to the very edge of the 'abyss' and to LOOK at it.

One of the statements that impressed me, however, was when he spoke of the 'beneficial aspect' of neuroris as a repository of ideas, a 'treasure-trove' of dreams, visions and nightmares, an inexhaustible supply of creative material from which the artist can draw continuously throughout this life.

He is not the only artist to have been conscious of the relationship between the less savoury aspects of the psyche and creativity, but I liked the way that he articulated it and thought it worth sharing here.

As far as the film itself is concerned, I would strongly recommend it but if an individual is unfamiliar with Fellini's films, he/she definitely should watch those beforehand. Although the film stands on its own as a wonderful tribute to a great artist and his art, it can be appreciated far more by those who have some familiarity with Fellini's work.

Watching Satyricon for the first time was an unforgettable experience for me. I was quite young and very innocent and the combination of horror and fascination was a potent one. I am inspired now to watch it again... as well as making certain that I see the beginning of 'Sono un Gran Bugiardo'.

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