Download What Is Cinema? Volume 2 PDF

TitleWhat Is Cinema? Volume 2
PublisherUniversity of California Press
ISBN 139780520242289
CategoryArts - Film
File Size26.9 MB
Total Pages226
Document Text Contents
Page 113

What Is Cinema?

of psychological after-effects. His characters are never defined by their
"character" but exclusively by their appearance. I deliberately avoid the
world "behavior" because its meaning has become too restricted; the way
people behave is only one element in the knowledge we have of them. We
know them by many other signs , not only their faces, of course, but by
the way they move, by everything that makes the body the outer shell
of the iner man�ven more , perhaps , by things still more external than
these, things on the frontier between the individual and the world, things
such as haircut, moustache, clothing, eye glasses ( the one prop that Fel­
lini has used to a point where it has become a gimmick ) . Then, beyond
that again, setting, too , has a role to play-not, of course, in an expres­
sionistic sense but rather as establishing a harmony or a disharmony be­
tween setting and character. I am thinking in particular of the extraordi­
nary relationship established between Cabiria and the unaccustomed set­
tings into which Nazzari inveigles her, the nightclub and the luxurious

On the Other Side of Th ings

But it is here that we reach the boundaries of realism, here, too, that
Fellini, who drives on further still, takes us beyond them . It is a little as
if, having been led to this degree of interest in appearances, we were now
to see the characters no longer among the objects but, as if these had be­
come transparent, through them . I mean by this that without our noticing
the world has moved from meaning to analogy, then from analogy to
identification with the supernatural. I apologize for this equivocal word;
the reader may replace it with whatever he wJl-"poetry" or "surrealism"
or "magic"-whatever the term that expresses the hidden accord which
things maintain with an invisible counterpart of which they are, so to
speak, merely the adumbration.

Let us take one example from among many others of this process of
"supematuralization," which is to be found in the metaphor of the angel .
From his first films, Fellini has been haunted by the angelizing of his char­
acters, as if the angelic state were the ultimate referent in his universe, the


Page 114


final measure of being. One can trace this tendency in its explicit develop­
ment at least from I ViteUoni on : Sordi dresses up for the carnival as a
guardian angel; a little later on what Fabrizi steals, as if by chance, is the
carved wooden statue of an angel. But these allusions are direct and con­
crete. Subtler stil, and al the more interesting because it seems uncon­
scious, is the shot in which the monk who has come down from working in
a tree loads a long string of little branches on his back. This detail is nothing
more than a nice "realistic" touch for us, perhaps even for Fellini himself,
until at the end of II Bidone we see Antonio dying at the side of the road :
in the white light of dawn he sees a procession of children and women bear­
ing bundles of sticks on their backs : angels pass! I must note, too, how in
the same film Picasso races down a street and the tails of his raincoat
spread out behind him like little wings. It is that same Richard Basehart
again who appears before Gelsomina as if he were weightless, a dazzling
sight on his high wire under the spotlights.

There is no end to Fellini's symbolism. Certainly, it would be possible
to study the whole body of his work from this one angle. * What needed to
be done was simply to place it within the context of the logic of neorealism,
for it is evident that these associations of objects and characters which con­
stitute Fellini's universe d�rive their value and their importance from real­
ism alon�r , to put it a better way, perhaps , from the objectivity with
which they are recorded. It is not in order to look like an angel that the
friar carries his bundles of sticks on his back, but it is enough to see the
wing in the twigs for the old monk to be transformed into one . One might
say that Fellini is not opposed to realism, any more than he is to neoreal­
ism, but rather that he achieves it surpassingly in a poetic reordering of the

A Revo lution in Narrat ive

Fellini creates a similar revolution at the narrative level. From this point
of view, to be sure, neorealism is also a revolution in form which comes
to bear on content. For example, the priority which they accord incident

• Se the article by Dominique Aubier in Cahiers du Cinema, No. 49.


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