Director Federico Fellini, in 1968, said that he read the Satyricon (c.54-68AD) by Petronius for the first time at school and that the reading remained with him as a vivid memory; his interest evolved to become a constant and mysterious challenge. He discovered that there were disconcerting analogies between Roman society before the final arrival of Christianity and that of today’s society. Fellini saw ourselves as confronting a society at the height of its splendour but revealing already the signs of a progressive disillusion. He saw a society in which all beliefs – religions, philosophical, ideological, and social – have crumbled, and been displaced by a sick, wild, and impotent eclecticism; where silence is reduced to a frivolous and meaningless bundle of notions or to a gloomy and fanatical elitism. Fellini believed that the work of Petronious is the realistic, bloody, and amusing description of the customs, characters, and general feel of those times; the film that Fellini wanted to make from it was going to be “a powerful and evocative allegory – a satire of the world we live in today”.
What Fellini ended up with was a loose adaptation of the Petronious classic which was written during the reign of Nero, and Fellini famously described Satyricon as “a science-fiction film, but one that looks backward into the past rather than forward into the future”. The film is one of Fellini’s most famous and is considered a landmark of counter-culture cinema which marked a radical new direction for the creator of La Strada and La Dolce Vita. The film explores ancient Roman society during its most debauched period and transforms the era of Nero into a landscape which was no more or less alien than the world that Fellini inhabited. These worlds were Europe at the end of the 60s and the dream-tapestry that augmented his own life and helped him to produce his unforgettable films.
This Blu-Ray comes from a new 4K restoration in the Masters of Cinema series.
For a newcomer to this film – well, you either like it or you hate it, and I’m not sure that there is anything in between. Certainly on its cinema release in Italy, the critics were stunned, to say the least.
The transfer from film to this Blu-ray release has been carried out impeccably and the superb quality cannot be faulted.
The excellent booklet is included with the disc and these booklets do seem to get better and better. This one is 48 pages long and features a new essay by Pasquale Iannone on Fellini and his usage of the ‘scope frame’; rare archival imagery; more. These special features include an optional English language track and plenty of behind the scenes and interview material.
An interesting and controversial film, brilliantly transferred, and well-worth viewing.
Review by Eric Jukes
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Fellini-Satyricon is out now on Blu-ray.