8 ½ is a film about “director’s block” and tells the story of Guido Anselmi, a film director, who during the filming of his latest film, suddenly loses inspiration and worries he will not be able to finish and fail. One of the first “rules” Fellini “broke” was the non-linear story. The linear plot is constantly interrupted with Guido’s dreams, fantasies, and childhood memories that are triggered by present problems. This helps create a world of fantasy and makes it clear to the audience that this film is not about life but the make believe world of film. When first reading about this it reminded me of Christopher Nolan’s film Memento. That film is about Leonard Shelby who has anterograde amnesia searching for the killer of his wife. The film’s events are told in two separate narratives. One is told in chronological order in black and white and the other is told in color in reverse chronological order. As each sequence begins the audience is unaware of the preceding events just like the main character. Finally at the end the film’s narratives converge and everything makes a lot more sense. Memento in comparison seems a lot easier to understand and follow than 8 ½ and since I was confused during Memento I can’t even comprehend my level of confusion if I watched 8 ½.
Another “rule” 8 ½ breaks is with editing. For example objects in the background and the orientation of people in the room move from shot to shot. This disrupts the viewer’s illusion of “reality” because in real life these kinds of things would not happen. However it makes perfect sense in the film because it helps capture the disoriented process of recalling memories, which the main character is doing. Try it yourself. It is hard to pinpoint the exact location of people and objects when recalling memories. In other words “rules” are meant to be broken but only with good reasons like Fellini had.
Like Memento, 8 ½ reminded me of a lot of other movies and television shows I have seen. First it reminded me of Six Feet Under when sometimes Fellini creates dream sequences or fantasies that are not really happening. Six Feet Under would use this method all the time to show what was really going on in their characters’ heads. Overall the plot of the film reminds me of two movies; Adaptation and Tropic Thunder. Adaptation is a Charlie Kaufman film about Charlie Kaufman’s difficult struggle to adapt The Orchid Thief novel into a film. It turns out it is based on upon his actual struggle when hired to write the film’s screenplay. Tropic Thunder is about a bunch of prima donna actors who are making a Vietnam War film based on the fictional novel Tropic Thunder. When their director becomes frustrated he decides to skip the script and drop them into the middle of the jungle to survive real action and danger. In the end the making of the film becomes the actual film in the film’s reality and is a worldwide smash! Sound familiar? Between these four movies and shows it is clear to see that Fellini’s movie paved the way for future strange and creative projects. It can take just one person to change the way we think and Fellini was definitely one for many people.