There seems to be a reoccurring topic in many of my reviews, Federico Fellini’s 1969 film Satyricon. I use this film as a standard when discussing color, psychology, and stylization. These are 3 essential elements for any good film, Fellini took all 3 of these and made arguably one of the greatest films of all time. It’s not a big surprise that many people also consider Fellini one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. This film has its influence on so many films released throughout the past 3 decades, including The Holy Mountain, El Topo, Titus, and even What Dreams May Come.
In films such as What Dreams May Come, color is used as tool for contrast. In that particular film, it was used to illustrate the difference between heaven and hell. In Satyricon it’s used as a tool to show the difference between the social classes, and establish the atmosphere of certain locations. The gaudy make up and costumes of the aristocratic ruling class of ancient Rome, against the drab clothing of the commoner and the slums and brothels of the city. Decadence and despair, defined. Much of the film’s second act contain scenes of lavish adventure, reminiscent of films such as Ben Hur. Fellini shifts to a use of more natural color, but uses just enough to keep the eye visually satisfied.
There is a well known term in the film world,”Felliniesque.” This describes his use of imagery blended with Psychology. El Topo and The Holy Mountain, are 2 films that immediately come to mind that have their origins with this term. Jodorowsky’s epics produce a spellbinding effect upon the viewer, one that makes you feel it first, and think about it second. Satyricon doesn’t flow, it weaves. Its plot shifts in a way that goes against the traditional method of storytelling by combining several different motifs and themes, along with several characters and locations. It elevates the viewer into an almost dreamlike state.
As I mentioned when I reviewed this film last year, this film is based off an older source material. Satyricon was based on a book written by the ancient Roman author, Petronius (c. 27 – 66 AD). Adaptations of a classic may be one of the most difficult tasks for any filmmaker. Fellini hit it. He stayed faithful to the original source material, yet at the same time added his own personal touch to make it an original product. This technique is present in Julie Taymor’s 1999 film Titus, her stylized adaptation of Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare (1564-1616). Tamor successfully applied her experience in theatre to give a unique look to one of the Bard’s greatest tragedies. Beneath all of her stylistic artistry, she kept true to the original story.
In the years to come, it will be interesting to see what other films will contain influence from this masterwork.
“A visionary is the only true realist” – Federico Fellini