Stylized adaptations of classic source material are very hit-or-miss with me.When they’re done right,such as Julie Tamor’s 1999 film “Titus”which was based on Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus” they can be exceptionally good.When they’re done wrong, they fall flat on their face.Luckily, Federico Fellini’s 1969 film “Satyricon” is without a doubt , one of the best of these, and while it does many things, It certainly does not fail.
Based loosely on the text of the same name by Petronius, Fellini created a film that was both visually intense, and very atmospheric.For this film Fellini teamed up with highly noted film producer Alberto Grimaldi, Who had recently assisted Sergio Leone with his conclusion to his “Dollars” trilogy, “The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly”.He would later go on to produce films with Pier Paolo Pasolini, who Fellini had mentored, starting on the set of “La Dulce Vita.”
Set in the Roman empire during the reign of emperor Nero, We witness the lavishness and debauchery that the Roman aristocracy enjoyed, we also see the poverty and degradation that many of it’s citizens endured in tenements,slums and brothels.Unlike other period pieces made at the time, Fellini showed the underside of Ancient Rome, not the lavish spectacles of the colosseum or the famed chariot races of the Circus Maximus, but excess,privilege,poverty and sexual depravity told in a very stylistic way.The whole film moves at a very dream like pace, never being content on staying at one place for to long a time.
One of the films greatest attributes is an element present in a lot of Italian films at the time; color. The upper class wear bright colorful costumes and have lavish if not even gaudy makeup, in contrast to the peasants who wear drab, lifeless clothing.A subtle difference, but one that illustrates the difference between the two classes.There isn’t a scene in the film that isn’t accented perfectly with the right shades and hues to create a dream like state, and It’s not at all surprising that Fellini was heavily influenced by parapsychology, and knew what to show and how to show it to generate a strong reaction from his audience.
The mark of a great filmmaker is one who can take a simple idea,or source material, apply his own touch and create a astonishing masterwork.This is a without a doubt a work for the ages, Not to mention quite possibly the most unique look at Ancient Rome ever captured on film.