Amarcord (1973) is a semi-autobiographical film directed by the well-known Italian director, Federico Fellini. For one night only, it was played on the big screen at Mercury Cinema as part of their ‘Imagined Worlds: International Visions’ Cinémathéque film culture. Amarcord is hailed as one of Fellini’s best films, and is remembered for its warm nostalgia as it examines the rituals of daily life.
The film follows an adolescent boy, Titta, who grows up in a small village in 1930s Fascist Italy under the dictatorship of Benito Mussolini, and his ‘typical’ Italian family. Amarcord opens with a town celebration to welcome spring, burning a straw witch on a great bonfire to banish the cold winter. The film continues in a series of vignettes, with each scene having no direct correlation to the previous, weaving in and out of the lives of the characters over the space of a year. We do not always see resolutions in these small stories, such as when Titta’s father is arrested by the Fascists for not showing proper respect during a celebration in the town. He returns home upset and hurt, but this scene is used only to show the power of the Fascist government and its effect on the people, and holds no further repercussions for the characters. As a result of these randomly selected vignettes, near the end we see Titta’s mother succumbing to a quick illness and passing away, yet in the next we witness a wedding and the coming of spring once again, where the film concludes.
As such, this style of storytelling has no plot other than what is contained within each small vignette, and it can be hard to follow or become attached to the characters in the same way as we might in many modern films. Despite this, it retains familiar elements. There is quite a lot of toilet humour and inappropriate farting, which many in a modern audience can appreciate as a part of family or adolescent life, as well as blatant sexual jokes, which sometimes fall short. There is also liberal breaking of the fourth wall, with several characters looking to the camera in random scenes to extol the virtues of their wonderful town, speaking of their history or famous events, their monologue occasionally interrupted by someone farting.
Amarcord won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1975, and anyone with an interest in tales of culture, bildungsroman, or biographies would be sure to enjoy this.
Words by Amelia Hughes.
Thanks to Adelaide Cinémathéque: Mercury Cinema.