The Ghost of Fellini
For almost a century Cinecittà has been a near to mythical location where dreams have been created. Since 1937 when the celebrated film studios in Rome were founded by Mussolini, it has carved out its place in cinema history.
Entertainment is an ethereal business, wrapped around the creation of works of escapism, so that the rest of us can have a break from the day to day struggles of being alive. No matter how mundane the daily tasks of someone in the film industry are, for example the people who run errands or chauffeur other, more important people around, the fact remains that they are part of something extraordinary. Film making is a supernatural art form which allows opportunities to show people doing all sorts of thing that are impossible in real life. In a movie people can fly, turn into an animal, or even simply travel from New York to Beijing in a matter of the time it takes to cut from one scene to the next. The wildest desires can be achieved, and actors long gone are immortalised, forever young.
For anyone interested in what it feels like to go to work on a film lot, it is possible to get a taste of it by taking a tour of part of the Cinecittà complex. The ticket allows access to the working area of the studios, as well as the museums, which are fascinating, and beautifully assembled.
During the tour, the guide leads you through the main film lots, and shows you parts of the outside sets. If you are lucky you can see inside a sound stage, where set designers realise their fantasies. This experience is accompanied by compelling anecdotes about filmmaking and film-makers past and present. The atmosphere is surreal as made-up worlds unfold around you. You can’t help feeling optimism in the air, as you absorb some of the, almost childlike, desire to weave stories, and to create imaginary realms made of light. The technology may have changed from celluloid to other, more contemporary media, but the attitude of joyfulness, playfulness and dedication to the craft remains the same as you can imagine it was in the 1960s, when the Studios were at their peak.
Directors are like earthly gods, with the power to bring to life their own universes, and the spirit of these giant presences, from the past and present, as well as the glamour and beauty of the stars they employed, is imbued in the essence of Cinecittà. Even a glimpse inside the massive, empty shed of Teatro No 5, which you are allowed to do only when it is between projects, is enough to set your mind drifting off to wonderful realms. You are somehow invaded by the spirit of Federico Fellini, whose favourite place in the world was this particular studio, and whose ghost is, most likely, still roaming around.
Photos from top: Entrance to Cinecittà, the backlots, Teatro No 5 signage, Fellini commemorative plate, Teatro No 5 interior, Teatro No 5 interior, Roman Forum set, Roman house set, archway in set of ancient town, Jerusalem set, storyboard in museum, display of costume design in museum, giant head used in Fellini’s 1976 film Casanova