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12. Fellini-Satyricon: Petronius and Film

Joanna Paul


Subject Classical Literature » Latin Literature

People Petronius

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405156875.2009.00017.x


Extract

When watching Fellini-Satyricon, the audience must fight as never before… their preconception about movies having to tell them a story with a start, a development, an end; preconceptions about historical pictures; preconceptions about myself, personally, because they know that before, Fellini always tells them some story. This is not a historical picture, a Cecil B. DeMille picture. It is not even a Fellini picture, in the sense of La Strada, or Nights of Cabiria, or even La Dolce Vita. They ask me why I make it. How do I know? Because, as a little boy, in Rimini, my papa took me to my first film, and it had Roman gladiators in it? Because for thirty years I have enjoyed Petronius, and now the moment comes right? I cannot answer. (Federico Fellini, quoted in Murray 1976 : 178) The desire for answers, and the powerful influence of our preconceptions – about antiquity, and about the cinema – combine to make the experience of watching Fellini-Satyricon (1969) alternately frustrating, provocative, and rewarding. The Italian director's vision of ancient Rome, adapted from Petronius's Satyrica and yet an intensely personal creation, is a challenging film. It challenges our ideas of conventional cinematic narratives, and of a conventional cinematic ancient Rome which, for today's audiences, is more familiar from movies such as Gladiator (2000) than the Hollywood spectacle ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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