Federico Fellini’s film 8 ½. It was not what I expected. It was marvelous.
It was the story of a man who is looking at his life and trying to figure out if he has what he wants or even more importantly, what it is that he wants. Ostensibly, it is the story of a director who is attempting to put the pieces of his life together into a film that will give his life a sense of meaning. On a deeper level, it is the struggle each of us must face as we make decisions each day. Decisions that involve love, commitment, friendship, how to deal with our past, our present, and our future.
Mostly, it is a story about a man who loves women but never seems to find what he thinks he wants to find and so continues looking in every woman. What he seeks is more than youth, though it is something that he doesn’t look for in women past a certain age. (In a fantasy scene where he has a harem of all the women he wants living in a house together, there is a revolt that he barely manages to suppress among the women with a bullwhip when he insists on sending a woman (his first showgirl) upstairs because she has passed a certain age). It is something he no longer seeks in his wife and can’t seem to find in his mistress, but that he remembers as existing in the beautiful Claudia who only appears towards the end of the film.
Claudia, it seems, will save him from his indecision on the film and on life, but just when triumph seems near, he folds.
In fact, it is only when he takes his own life in a fantasy sequence where everyone demands answers from him that he comes to realize that what he loves about everyone in his life has never gone away. He still loves these people. He loves all of these women. And finally, he is liberated from his quest for he knew not what.
In a way, the beginning and ending sequences were crossed. In the beginning, he is trapped in traffic and everyone watches as he chokes on smoke in his car but finally escapes into the sky only to be drawn down by an odd assortment of characters below, but in the end, it is the odd assortment of characters that help to lift him up into a conga line of everyone he knows until finally, it is revealed that it is actually the little boy within him that has been leading the procession all along. And this is where it ends.