Federico Fellini

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Federico Fellini, 1965

Federico Fellini (born January 20, 1920 in Rimini , † October 31, 1993 in Rome ) was an Italian filmmaker and is considered one of the most important auteur filmmakers of the 20th century.


Early years in Rimini

Federico Fellini was born on January 20, 1920, the first of three children in Rimini. His mother was from Rome and his father grew up on a farm near Rimini. The brother Ricardo also worked in the film business, initially as an actor, later mainly as a documentary filmmaker. In 1925, after in Italy the fascist state power had taken over, Fellini came to a Catholic, led by sisters school. Tullio Kezich writes in Fellini - Eine Biographie : "He was any child who could draw pretty, in any small town in a down-to-earth Italy that was wedged between fascism and Catholicism ."

He spent his holidays with his grandmother in the country, where he got to know rural traditions on the one hand, but also had contact with vagabonds, Sinti and Roma, some of whom later found their way into his films as characters. From 1930 to 1938 Fellini attended the Giulio-Cesare high school . There he drew friends and teachers as well as various politicians, and in time he was able to sell a few caricatures and comic strips to small provincial magazines, and later to larger newspapers. The Florentine weekly "420" regularly published columns and caricatures by Fellini. In 1939 he enrolled at the University of Rome.

Beginnings in Rome

Employed by the daily Il Piccolo and later by the satirical weekly Marc 'Aurelio , Fellini was able to assert himself as a talented young journalist and cartoonist . He made a career and was soon invited to editorial conferences. During this time he began - more space had been given to him in the newspaper - to describe his youth in the provinces and his beginnings in Rome like a diary and with relentless self-irony. Many of the subjects portrayed reappeared in his films at some point. In addition to his newspaper work, he was also involved in work on drafts for various musicals and revues , although he had little interest in the theater. Fellini also wrote contributions for the radio station Radiocorriere as well as short radio plays, which often contained dream-like sequences, as they were later in some of his films.

While on the radio, he met the actress and speaker Giulietta Masina , whom he married in 1943 and with whom he remained married until his death. Their only child (Pierfederico) was born in March 1945, but died a month later due to illness.

The way to direction

Fellini is still working on various scripts as a journalist and radio dramaturge . "He (Fellini) tends to make his own work appear as minimal as possible or to downplay its importance," says Tullio Kezich in Fellini's biography.

He dedicates himself more and more to working on scripts. He met the author and director Roberto Rossellini , with whom he received the first of his many Oscar nominations for Roma città aperta - Rome, open city in 1946 . He established himself as a screenwriter and a year later gave up his journalistic career and his work as a radio dramaturge completely. In 1950 Fellini had already been a screenwriter and assistant director for ten years and during this time had worked on 19 scripts (mainly for films of neorealism ). And he had made contacts and made friends with the likes of Pinelli (writer), Laurentiis ( producer ), Coletti (director), Lattuada (director) and other major actors and directors who would later support him in his own films.

Fellini made his debut as a director in 1950 with Luci del varietà - Lights of Variety .



Fellini in the 1950s

At Lichter des Varieté , the 30-year-old Fellini received support from Alberto Lattuada , who together with him took care of the staging and served as guarantor for the production. The film is about a singer who joins a show group to get out of her home village; he has often been compared to Vita da cani - A dog's life by Mario Monicelli . Vita da cani was released about six months earlier and deals with a similar suburban topic - but more sensitively and precisely, as the critics wrote. Lattuada and Fellini were accused of casting errors and insufficient intuition for the characters. After the failure, the two friends reacted differently: Lattuada's next film Anna grossed a billion lire and thus became the greatest international success of Italian cinema to date. Fellini, on the other hand, continued his chosen path and devoted himself to the preparations for his next film.

For the comedy Die Bittere Liebe , the original idea of ​​which (honeymoon in Rome) came from Michelangelo Antonioni , but which was written by Tullio Pinelli , Ennio Flaiano and Federico Fellini, Fellini had sole responsibility for the team and the direction for the first time. During the shooting, Fellini changed the material again and subjected it to a "Fellinization" (T. Kezich, Fellini - a biography). The film, which opened in cinemas in 1952, again received mostly negative reviews. An influential magazine for film culture wrote: “[…] a film that is so inferior due to its crude style, its narrative flaws and the conventionality of the structure that there is good reason to doubt whether Fellini's attempt at directing would not be his last is. ”One of the few admirers called the film, however,“ the first anarchist film in Italy ”. Fellini himself recognized his progress and was certain that he had made “a wonderful film five years early”.

In December 1952 he continued his cinematic work with I Vitelloni - The Idlers , a film about five young people who kill time by doing nothing in a small provincial town . When the film was half a year later on the Film Festival of Venice was a success became apparent at last for the director Fellini. Critics and audiences agreed that a new director had made the breakthrough here. Fellini was awarded the Silver Lion , and I Vitelloni found his way into the international rental business. The film was a box-office hit and six years later had already grossed the considerable sum of 600 million lire. In the same year, the episode film L'Amore in città - Love in the City , was released, in which Fellini wrote and directed an episode alongside Michelangelo Antonioni, Alberto Lattuada, Carlo Lizzani , Francesco Maselli , Dino Risi and Cesare Zavattini . The great success did not materialize, but some film scholars describe the film as remarkable.

Fellini's next film La Strada - The Song of the Road (1953–1954), a kind of cinematic fairy tale about a girl who is sold by her family to a fairground artist (starring Anthony Quinn and Fellini's wife Giulietta Masina ), brought the young director national and international nominations and awards - u. a. the Oscar for the best foreign language film, a nomination for the Oscar for the best screenplay and best staging, a Nastro d'Argento des Sindacato Nazionale Giornalisti Cinematografici Italiani , the Silver Lion of Venice and many other prizes. But when it premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September 1954, the film split the world of Italian auteur filmmakers into two camps. It was triggered by rumors of a boycott of Viscontis Senso . Visconti, who was considered the leader of the Marxist opposition and front man of the neorealists , was a thorn in the side of the Christian Democratic government and the cinema that it shaped. The Visconti supporters saw the reason for the award of the Silver Lion for La Strada as clear evidence of the boycott: “For the interesting attempt of a young director who came up with the idea for the film and who with this film his talent for a has demonstrated a sensitive and independent perspective ”. In addition, Fellini's film was called "neo-abstract" by the embittered Visconti. Other left critics accused the film of religiosity , mystification , pathos and naivete .

In 1955 Fellini's sixth film, Il Bidone - Fellini's crooks was released . The story revolves around a couple of swindlers who, disguised as spiritual dignitaries, pull the money out of ordinary people's pockets. At the end of shooting, there were just 40 days until the presentation in Venice, so the film was edited by two film editors at the same time. At the festival the film was not even mentioned by the jury, and when it was shown the hall began to empty halfway through the film. Fellini was so disappointed that he no longer sent a film to the competition in Venice. It wasn't until 1969 that another of his films was shown at the festival - albeit out of competition.

After this failure, almost two years passed before Fellini was able to finance his next film. Le Notti di Cabiria - The nights of Cabiria is about a prostitute's search for love - potential donors feared criticism from the Catholic Church . While looking for a producer, Fellini met the then young writer Pier Paolo Pasolini . Pasolini translated the dialogues in the script into modern Roman dialect . After Fellini had collected most of the budget from various private individuals, he finally found a producer. The premiere took place in Cannes in 1957 , and The Nights of Cabiria held up against stiff competition, e. B. against The Seventh Seal by Ingmar Bergman or against A Condemned Man has escaped from Robert Bresson , and received the award for the best actress ( Giulietta Masina ) with the official information that Fellini was honored by the jury for the creation of this character - The Golden Palm went to the film Alluring Temptation by William Wyler - Le Notti di Cabiria won other prizes and festivals (including the Oscar). In the same year Fellini wanted to make a new film called Reise mit Anita . But when his dream actress Sophia Loren was no longer available and he did not want to shoot the film with another actress, the project was postponed, which was realized in 1978 by Mario Monicelli . This film was one of Fellini's most beloved as the story contains a private event, namely his trip to his dying father in Rimini in May 1956.

Fellini's film about the nightlife in Rome and the paparazzi competition for the most scandalous photos was called La dolce Vita - The sweet life . The film was shown first in Rome in 1960, then in Milan . There were negative reviews from the traditional media, but the left press defended Fellini. Five months later he received the Palme d'Or in Cannes and received several nominations and awards in the two years that followed. Contrary to the fears of the producers, the film was a box-office hit - it grossed over 2 billion lire by 1965.


In 1960/1961 Fellini founded the production company Federiz with Rizzoli . On the one hand, they wanted to start preparing for Fellini's next film, but they also wanted to produce films by young directors. The Federiz produced until 1966 nine films, including confusion of the summer of Luigi Zampa , Virgin richly garnished by Jean Leon , moment of truth by Francesco Rosi and The Red Desert by Michelangelo Antonioni. Fellini made his two own subsequent films ( Boccaccio '70 and ) , however, for other production companies, to the annoyance of his partner Rizzoli; Only Giulietta degli spiriti was produced by Federiz in 1965 .

In 1961 Fellini met the German pediatrician and psychoanalyst Ernst Bernhard , a student at CG Jung's Zurich school . Fellini came into contact with psychoanalysis or analytical psychology and dream interpretation . The frequent meetings and conversations have clearly influenced Fellini's cinema, which now received more dreamlike sequences.

In 1962, the now forty-two-year-old director released a film against censorship and the media world, Boccaccio '70 ; the reviews were cautious. In the United States, Boccaccio was ostracized by the Catholic Legion of Decency in '70 .

Fellini's contains a great deal of autobiography. As a report on Fellini's life and problems, the film is credible to the point where it becomes fantastic. The almost surreal film can be understood as a kind of experiment by the author on his own body. avoids the gravity of the tragedy and for many is Fellini's masterpiece . Filming began in 1962 and lasted over five months. The film was launched in Italy in 1963 and received even more critical acclaim than La dolce vita . Words like magician, genius, masterful style and the like quickly popped up in the world press. The film is seen as trend-setting for experimentalism - beyond avant-garde and convention . received more than 16 awards and further nominations.

Giulietta degli spiriti - Julia and the Spirits was Fellini's first film since Die Bittere Liebe , which was released straightto the cinemasthrough a festival . The main reasons for this were manufacturing difficulties that prevented it from being completed in time for Venice, where it should have been shown out of competition. Worldwide this film about a lonely woman who is betrayed by her husband provoked a certain disappointment; he was described as incomprehensible, uncontrolled and cold. Even Fellini was not satisfied with the end product, but defended his idea of ​​making a film from the female perspective so vehemently that he almost lost a whole staff and many friends.

The producer and studio boss Dino De Laurentiis , who produced colossal films (e.g .: The Bible , A man sees red , Dune ) , now took advantage of Fellini's isolation and wanted to adorn his powerful work with a new Fellini. He signed a contract with Laurentiis and has since been considered the highest paid director in Italy. Fellini kept providing him with new concepts and exposés , but Laurentiis seldom agreed. When they finally reached an agreement, preparations began for the film Il viaggio di G. Mastorna , which Fellini did not finish ( Milo Manara turned the script into a comic). Fellini himself got into a creative crisis . The frequent misunderstandings made Fellini distance himself from the powerful producer, and he planned - despite a signed contract - to make a film (Satyricon) with the competition, whereupon Laurentiis sued him. Eventually Fellini was ransomed by the producer Grimaldi , and he could begin preparations for Satyricon . But this film has also been postponed. Fellini received an offer from France to shoot an episode film with Louis Malle and Roger Vadim : Toby Dammit is the name of Fellini's part of Histoires extraordinaires - extraordinary stories . At the premiere in Cannes in 1968, the film received little attention - but Fellini's episode received excellent reviews. When filming for Satyricon began, NBC made a documentary about and with Fellini. Fellini: A Director's Notebook ran on American television in 1969 .

Fellini's Satyricon was released in theaters in the same year . At the XXX. At the Venice Film Festival, critics praised the film the following day, but shied away from interpreting it. In fact, Satyricon is one of Fellini's most subjective films that requires profound interpretation. The director himself called it “a science fiction film directed into the past” that depicts a journey into “the unknown” - he insisted on this unusual expression. Three more films were made on this subject: I Clowns , Fellini's Roma and Amarcord .


Fellini in the 1970s

I Clowns - The clowns was produced for television and ran in 1971 in Italy, France , Germany and the USA . Fellini tried not to copy the narrative form of the cinema and staged the film in a confidential, more journalistic than narrative tone.

In his next film Fellini's Roma he portrayed Italy's capital around 1940 in a very subjective, autobiographical way. T. Kezich wrote about the film: "A structure with consecutive episodes leads to a rhapsodic reading, to a selection according to your mood and perhaps also according to your mood". Fellini's Roma was released in 1972. The critics discussed the pros and cons of the numerous “films in the film”, which Fellini valued very much, and described “Roma” as confused, colorful and typically Fellinian.

The following year Fellini's Amarcord appeared - a panopticon of bizarre characters, a kaleidoscope of different snapshots of Italy in the time of fascism, from the perspective of a curious sixteen-year-old boy. Amarcord was again more successful both with audiences and at festivals: the film received an Oscar and 13 other awards .

In 1975 the shooting of Casanova began , the production was taken over by Alberto Grimaldi (produced e.g. 1900 and Gangs of New York ). In mid-December, the budget (5 billion lire) and deadlines had already been exceeded. With about 40 percent of the film still to be shot, Grimaldi distributed letters of resignation to the entire group and decided to close the store. After endless debates with lawyers, filming was continued (mid-January) and ended in May 1976. Il Casanova di Federico Fellini - Fellini's Casanova was released in December 1976, but the number of visitors was out of proportion to expectations. Most of the critics were irritated and showed no understanding of the visual preponderance, the opulence and the more enumerative than narrative character of the work. Fellini himself said about the film in an interview: “What did I want to do with this film? Getting a little further to the ultimate reason for cinema, to what I think total film is. So to the point that you can turn a film into a painting. […] The ideal would be to make a picture from a single picture that is eternally fixed and full of movement. ”(Quoted from Casanova, Diogenes 1977).

After the long filming time of Casanova Fellini wanted to shoot something small, cheap. He found a topic that deeply touched him in the current political situation in Italy. When the Christian Democrat and Prime Minister Aldo Moro wanted to sign a solidarity pact with the Communist Party (PCI) to solve the problem of the economic crisis, he was kidnapped on March 16, 1978 by a command of the left-wing terrorist underground organization Red Brigades and died 55 days later The trunk of a Renault found near the Communist Party headquarters. Fellini's Prova d'orchestra - orchestral rehearsal is possibly the most political film of his career. For Fellini, the orchestra was a metaphor for the whole world and humanity. Filming began in May 1978 and lasted just four weeks. The box office result was negligible, but all reviews were positive.

Fellini's City of Women is the illustrated dream of a man (played magnificently by Marcello Mastroianni ) who gets lost in search of the ideal woman. The film opened in Fellini's sixtieth year and received critical acclaim.


Fellini's next project E la nave va - Fellini's Ship of Dreams is an associative allusion to the outbreak of the First World War and, as Fellini said: “… an attempt to lock a group of people on a journey into the void, that is, at sea. But it could also… ”. E la nave va was presented in Venice in 1983. The reactions to the film were positive - Ingmar Bergman watched the film alone in the basement of the Palazzo, which Fellini particularly flattered.

In 1984 Fellini traveled to Los Angeles and Mexico to research a Latin American scholar . On his return he wrote the synopsis Die Reise nach Tulun . In October 1984 filming began on Ginger and Fred . The film is a settlement with the soulless television world and underlines Fellini's statements and legal actions against the bottomless proliferation of private television in Italy at the end of the 1970s. While it was being completed, he was admitted to a clinic for malaise and the first screening had to be postponed. It was released in France in January 1986. When Fellini was just released from the hospital in 1985 when Ginger and Fred were finished, he received the Golden Lion in Venice for his life's work . In 1987 he continued his cinematic work with Intervista , a self-portrait in which he plays himself and tells about his life and work.


Fellini's tomb. Sculpture: La Grande Prua by A. Pomodoro

Fellini's twenty-fourth and last film, which he directed at the age of 70, is entitled La Voce della Luna - The Voice of the Moon and is about the moonstruck Salvini ( Roberto Benigni ) who prowls around at night and listens to mysterious voices.

In 1993 Federico Fellini received the Oscar of Honor . He died on October 31, 1993 of complications from a heart attack. The residents of Rimini built a grave of honor for him on the Cimitero Monumentale di Rimini , in which his wife and child will later be buried. The grave monument is the sculpture La Grande Prua created by Arnaldo Pomodoro . A year later the Fondazione Federico Fellini Foundation was established.



  • 1942: Avanti c'è posto… - Director: Mario Bonnard
  • 1942: I cavalieri del deserto - Director: Gino Talamo, Osvaldo Valenti
  • 1942: Quarta pagina - Director: Nicola Manzari
  • 1943: L'ultima carrozzella - Director: Mario Mattòli
  • 1943: Campo de 'fiori - Director: Mario Bonnard
  • 1945: Rome, open city (Roma, città aperta) - Director: Roberto Rossellini
  • 1946: Paisà - Director: Roberto Rossellini
  • 1947: The crime of Giovanni Episcopo (Il delitto di Giovanni Episcopo) - directed by Alberto Lattuada
  • 1948: Amore (L'amore) - Director: Roberto Rossellini
  • 1948: Without Mercy (Senza pietà) - Director: Alberto Lattuada
  • 1949: In the name of the law (In nome della legge) - directed by Pietro Germi
  • 1950: Way of Hope (Il cammino della speranza) - Director: Pietro Germi

Script and direction


  • Federico Fellini Collection. German / Italian, distribution: Arthaus , 2011, 10 DVDs


  • In Fellini's footsteps. Documentary, Switzerland, France 2013, 75:30 min., Script and director: Gérald Morin, production: Artemis Films Productions, RSI , SRG SSR , arte , first broadcast: October 29, 2013 on arte, table of contents with video excerpt from arte.
    Also ran on January 18, 2020 in 3sat ( table of contents at 3sat )
  • Portrait of Frederico Fellini. Documentary, Germany 1993, 45 min., Script and director: Birgitta Ashoff, production: NRD and arte

honors and awards

In addition, Fellini's directorial work La Strada (1957), The Nights of Cabiria (1958), Eight and Half (1964) and Amarcord (1975) each received an Oscar in the category of Best Foreign Language Film . La Strada (1956), The Sweet Life (1961), Eight and Half (1963) and Julia and the Ghosts (1965) were also awarded the New York Film Critics Circle Award in the same category , La Strada (1956), Eight and a half (1964) and Amarcord each received the Danish Bodil for Best European Film .

Literature, sources

To life and work
Interviews and discussions
  • Federico Fellini: The Book of Dreams. Translated from the Italian by Christel Galliani. Collection Rolf Heyne, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-89910-374-8 .
  • Gero von Boehm : Federico Fellini. October 19, 1984 . Interview in: Encounters. Images of man from three decades . Collection Rolf Heyne, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-89910-443-1 , pp. 61-68.

Web links

Commons : Federico Fellini  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Source: Tullio Kezich : Federico Fellini: His Life and Work , 2006, in: Google Bücher , p. 74, accessed on November 4, 2013.
  2. cf. Chandler, p. 388.
  3. a b c Chandler, p. 388.
  4. ^ American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Book of Members ( PDF ). Retrieved April 2, 2016