This is a review of the film, In Search of Fellini and a reflection because it reminded me of my own Italian adventure.
Nancy Cartwright (best known as the voice of Bart Simpson) and Peter Kjenaas wrote the screenplay for the film based on Nancy’s real life story. Here’s their premise: “A shy small-town Ohio girl who loves movies but dislikes reality, discovers the delightfully bizarre films of Federico Fellini, and sets off on a strange, beautiful journey across Italy to find him.” The film was nicely cast with Ksenia Solo, Maria Bello, and Mary Lynn Rajskub; and was directed by Taron Lexton.
The film opens with a quote by Fellini, “Realism is a bad word.” This is so true because we create our own reality. We are in charge of our lives. We make the choices or make the necessary adjustments when life hits us hard. We each have our own dreams and goals. If we don’t go after them, no one will just lay them at our feet. Even though some people do look to others to be their source of happiness, how disappointing can that turn out to be?
In the film, Clair (Maria Bello) is a mother and an eternal dreamer. When she gives birth to Lucy Jean Cunningham (Ksenia Solo), she sets out to spare her from the sorrows of life. She hopes to keep her safe within the world of fantasy. Clair and Lucy often spend their days watching nostalgic Hollywood movies.
As a latchkey kid, I grew up watching movies. Since my mom was at work, I watched alone.
Clair begins to get ill but tries to hide it from Lucy. Unfortunately, Lucy overhears Clair and her Aunt Carrie (Mary Lynn Rajskub) talking and gets a hint that problems are ahead. Lucy makes the move to get a job.
We do get sicknesses, lose friends and loved ones, but we are still allowed to dream and so much the more. Films might be fabricated and pretend, but they show us there is much more to life than the mundane. Sometimes life is as good as a movie or better! Federico Fellini presented scenes and images that are akin to beautiful obscure paintings or elaborate masquerade parties. He presented dream-like backdrops with romantic figures, or made the ordinary a bit humorous. Yes, we should be realistic, but too much of that is like staying glued to the news all day long.
You can limit your life by being too realistic because even reality is selective. If we were fully steeped in so-called reality, would we actually be happy to get up in the morning?
What we fill our heads with eventually comes out, whether verbally or experientially.
As Lucy sits sadly curbside, having just lost her illegally parked Vespa, and is totally discouraged after running away from a scammy job offer, someone happens to hand her a “Tutto Fellini” flyer. Totally distraught, she somehow follows the flyer’s info to a Fellini film festival. By the end of the day, the fantasy of the film world in La Strada is enough to give her hope.
“The visionary is the only true realist.” This Fellini quote is displayed in the movie theater where Lucy attends the festival.
Once home Lucy’s Aunt Carrie accesses her stirring dissension and encourages Lucy to leave home. She says “You’re 20. You’re allowed to leave…This is your life. What do you want to do?”
Lucy’s mom tells her she realizes she can’t protect her from everything bad in the world. And Lucy obviously is feeling the constraints of the sheltered life, and needs to go. Her mom realizes this too and abruptly blows her off so she will go, without her.
What happens when she reaches Italy becomes a juxtaposition of Lucy’s reality and garish Fellini-like interludes. Of course, everyone that goes to Italy for adventure starts with different expectations and has their own experiences.
My experiences in Italy were quite different than Lucy’s. If you read the book, “An Italian Affair” by Laura Fraser, she had another type of escapade there. Do you always get what you are looking for? Not really. But isn’t it the bravery of the pursuit that is notable. You don’t have to be 20 to be idealistic. I was idealistic at 35, when I left for Italy. Lucy went in 1993 and I went in 1996. I wasn’t in search of Fellini, and of course he had passed by then anyway. Going to Cinecittà, the famous Italian movie complex though was my great dream, and I did go, more than once, while I was attending an Italian film school outside of Rome.
If we got just what we were seeking, how boring would that be? Just by exploring, we might discover something we never could have imagined nor knew ever existed. Fantasy is the catalyst, but reality plays out uniquely – it has never been done, in our lives anyway. It’s all our own. Just like Lucy, someone can be inspired by seeing a certain film, or others by reading a great book, either way, age is no limit. There is no expiration on adventure and dreams. And any country or location qualifies, only the dreamer decides where that special place is. I say make the most of life no matter when you do it, even if you are playing catch-up. It’s better to play catch-up, then keep your dreams confined to your bedtime.
I look back on my year in Italy and I am so happy I went. It was one of the best times in my life, still.
After watching the film, I realized my dream of wanting to go to Italy to fulfill film dreams was not so unique. Lucy, the main character of the film had a different ending than I did. I didn’t have any romances and I didn’t end up with an Italian husband. Maybe I played it too safe, not sure, but then that was a movie (mostly based on a true story), and I was living real life.
If you’re after romance and a cinematic experience, I suggest you watch the film.
And if you have your own stories of adventure, based anywhere, you might think of writing about them and sharing the fun or the wisdom that you learned from that time.
If you enjoyed what you read, let’s connect!