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Lessons We Can Learn From Amarcord

— November 6, 2015 —

The legendary Fellini film encompasses humour, sadness and beauty

– here, we examine the takeaways

 TextKristen Bateman
Federico Fellini's Amarcord (Italian for "I remember") is a masterful cultural
commentary on the everyday life of 1930s Fascist Italy. With humour, grace and a
typically surreal Fellini-esque style (after all, this is the man who once remarked, "life
is a combination of magic and pasta") the famed director reveals the inner workings of
an eccentric cast of characters in the village of Borgo San Giuliano, right outside
Fellini's hometown of Rimini. Through a string of comic scenes, such as a town
bonfire, snowball fights and spontaneous dances on decrepit hotel terraces, Fellini
delves deep into politics and rituals of the village. Here, we reflect on what we can
learn from the enchanting Amarcord.

Amarcord (film still) 1973Amarcord (film still) 1973

1. Beauty is everywhere
Amarcord follows an ordinary teenage boy named Titta, and all the characters in his
town outside of Rimini. In the opening scene of the film, a woman mundanely hangs
laundry, while ethereal white puffballs fly through the air. As she points them out, a
man chants, “When puffballs come, cold winter’s done." The entire village is
transfixed by them. Later on in the film, a group of adolescent boys have a snowball
fight in the town square. They become silent when they realize that a huge and
colourful peacock has landed on the snowy fountain to watch them. Moments like
these, which are peppered throughout the film, are reminders that beauty is
everywhere – sometimes where you least expect it.

Amarcord (film still) 1973Amarcord (film still) 1973

2. When in doubt, wear red
Gradisca, (loosely translated in Italian to “please do!”) is considered the town beauty
by the majority of the men in the village. While others in the film wear a uniform of
greys, browns and navy blues in the form of scarves, caps, knee-socks, boots and
capes, fitting for the frigid winter weather of Rimini, Gradisca most often appears in
stunning red. During the snowball fight, she wraps her flame-hued hair in a scarlet
shawl while wearing a long-sleeved white dress. In another scene she plays seductress
while sporting a cherry red coat with a fur collar, matching beret and pearls. She
removes the coat, revealing black lingerie, but continues to wear her hat. Gradisca's
cinematic style is proof that when in doubt, wear a striking shade of red for maximum
impact – no matter the situation.

Amarcord (film still) 1973Amarcord (film still) 1973

3. Don’t forget to dance

During a windstorm, a group of young men stand outside a boarded up hotel on the
terrace, dressed for the cold. As the wind starts to blow harder, it howls louder and the
leaves, snow and mist pass by. A song from Nino Rota’s singularly unique soundtrack
starts to play, and two men sway in unison. Slowly, they drift off, waltzing with
imaginary female partners while one sits on the steps in the background, silently
moving his hands to the music. The others join in, twisting and twirling while one
whispers, “Where are you, my love?” in Italian, and some look as if they’re playing
imaginary musical instruments. It’s a reminder that, no matter how bleak the day or
situation, you can always dance.
Amarcord (film still) 1973Amarcord (film still) 1973

4. Question everything
Throughout the film, the narrative follows a strictly enforced Fascist lifestyle in the
character's schools, their homes and even outside on the streets. Families are
separated, people are unfairly questioned or threatened. But one thing that continues
throughout the film is the never-ending string of rebellion. Some young boys question
or mock disinterested teachers while others daydream during government parades
about how things may be different one day. Motorcyclists frequently zoom through
the town center in displays of exhibitionism. It's a lesson to never give up one's
rebellious spirit.
Amarcord (film still) 1973Amarcord (film still) 1973

5. Surround yourself with characters

Amarcord is full of individualistic characters who make everyday activities in a
typical small, rural village veritably colourful; a blind accordion player is at the centre
of a bonfire scene, while a blonde nymphomaniac named Volpina makes facial
expressions that are priceless. A buxom tobacconist is the subject of lust for many of
the local young men, while the street vendor doubles as the best liar in town. The
schoolmaster's name is Zeus. All this is representational of Fellini's humour, and the
fact that life is often best when surrounded by interesting people.