Film & TV

Scene Discussion: 8 1/2

Martin Scorsese

Lesson time 3:30 min

Martin analyzes Federico Fellini's choices in composition and lighting in this scene from 8 1/2, and shows how these impact our understanding of the protoganist. Watch and learn as Martin breaks down camera movement and the blocking of actors.

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8 1/2, for example, is a very surprising film. Once you get the idea, once you begin to feel that these are memories or these are fantasies, it's all right. But you try not to. I remember seeing it. I was about 18 years old. So you try not to follow it. You were sort of along for the ride, so to speak. And the beauty of the ships back and forth in time or the shifts to fantasy, the effortlessness of the cut, for example, even the cut of him standing in line for the special water that's being given out at the spa and the wonderful way he moment where he moves his glasses down like so and then sees, it cuts to Claudia Cardinale dressed as one of the nurses coming out and offering the water to him. It's an obvious flashback, or I should say a fantasy, in a way. But one looks at the composition on Mastrianni, his costume, his glasses, the use of Rossini music, and ultimately the cut to Claudia Cardinale is overexposed too. It's overexposed, and it becomes very quiet. He was able to play with the image in such a plastic way, kept stretching the images and stretching the cutting of the film so that it exists in some subconscious level. These seemingly neutral frames, if you take a really close look at that picture, have a composition or a lighting effect that throws one off in a sense, that it is somehow imbued with the perception of Guido, the director, in the film, his perception, which might be off, might be emphasizing one thing over the other. And when he goes to the steam baths to try to get to some sort of spiritual guidance from the cardinal, just the shots of him going down into the bath and how everyone's talking to the camera, talking to him, saying, he can fix my Mexican divorce. He can do this. The guy who's going to support us. And this is what we need for the film. It's how one chooses to show impressions of that encounter. And his choice of angle and his choice of lighting and his choice of the composition and the size of the people in the frames are all something that becomes fluid. These are things that because Guido is feeling so strongly about the need to have some sort of guidance or maybe to have some sort of spiritual guidance, it's what he takes back from this meeting. He remembers the shadow. He remembers the frail body of the cardinal, this god-like figure who is judging him almost, in a way, the steam, which is from Dante's Inferno, all of this hallucinogenic perception of the filmmaker.


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Comments

Ting K.

I wonder what goes on in Fellini's mind (his mental process) to create this magical 8 1/2.

Desiree

For a man who set out to make a film with no lies in it, this is a story devoid of any objective truth. I never saw it as hallucinogenic, but as completely surreally subjective and whimsical. We are in unapologetically in Guido’s head in this film, a man imaginative, boyish, and, like a lot of artists somewhat self-centeredly stuck in his own experience. And you know what? It’s fun being there. The nostalgia of his memories where everything is more than what it ever was in reality. The cardinal is more somber, more real, more frail than he ever could have been with the shadows and the steam, and the sheets. Guido’s imagination of the nurse is more beautiful, more ethereal and over-exposed than reality. It’s a warm, very human space to be in, his head. You can’t help but remember things from your memories, your past, all while envisioning his.

Antonello S.

This is the first scene Martin is talking of in the lesson https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=fg2ZHMg6E24

Rich T.

All great lessons. Taking notes and sketching visuals scenes as references/inspirations for future projects. Working on storyboards with a filmmaker, a recent job. Having a great time.

Rane M.

It's been a long time since I saw 8 1/2... wish he had included the scene he's referring to.

CLAU

i need to watch his films i had read books about him but never saw his flims

Moussa M.

Federico Fellini movies 8 1/2 is very personal . I have the impression that we are in Fellini head .

Mia S.

"A very surprising film - once you get the idea, begin to feel that these are memories, fantasies, it's all right, but you try not to follow it; you were sort of along for the ride, so to speak. The beauty of the shifts back and forth in time, the shifts to fantasy - the effortlessness of the cut, for example, even the cut of him standing in line for the special water at the spa, and the wonderful moment where he moves his glasses down like so and then sees - it cuts to one of the nurses coming out and offering the water to him. It's an obvious flashback - or should I say, a fantasy, in a way. But one looks at the composition on his costume, his glasses, the use of Rossini music, and ultimately the cut to Claudia Cardinale is overexposed, too. It's overexposed, and it becomes very quiet. He was able to play with the image in such a plastic way, kept stretching the images, the cutting of the film so that it exists in some subconscious level. These seemingly neutral frames - if you take a really close look at that picture - have a composition of lighting effect that throws one off in a sense, that is somehow imbued with the perception of Guido, the director in the film - his perception which might be off, might be emphasizing one thing over the other. When he goes to the steam baths to try to get some sort of spiritual guidance, just the shots of him going down into the bath and how everyone's talking into the camera, talking to him, saying 'He can fix my divorce, this is what we need for the film.' It's how one chooses to show impressions of that encounter, and his choice of angle, lighting, composition and size of people in the frames, are all something that becomes fluid. These are things that - because Guido is feeling so strong about the need to have some sort of guidance - it's what he takes back from this meeting. He remembers the shadow, the frail body of the cardinal, this godlike figure who's judging him almost - the steam, which is from 'Dante's Inferno.' All of this hallucinogenic perception of the filmmaker."

Mindaugas Ž.

All the lessons were great, very powerful personality. I just like his movies and the way he approaches them. Still I lacked some film scenes when Martin talks, in this way it is easier to see the whole picture and what he essentially means. Anyway I do appreciate the work of the whole team. Thanks.

Bradley L.

Interesting examples that offer ways to present ideas within a scene. I like us of the classics, several of those that I have seen need to be re-examined for the details he pointed out.