Reality

HOTEL CORRIDOR: The geometrics of the last shot of the dream (converging parallel lines) are duplicated in the first shot in the hallway, making for a satisfying aes thetic resonance. But the dissonance between the two shots is what supplies the narrative thrust, the biggest difference being that Guido is moving with alacrity toward a moving camera where a moment ago he was frozen in space by a static camera.

• The two shots of Guido waiting — long and then close — pay extraordinary attention to this action. What is its effect on us? It causes us to anticipate what will happen next. When the elevator does arrive in a separate shot, the lighted glass door with shadows behind focuses our anticipation more specifically. We ask ourselves: Who is in the elevator?

ELEVATOR: Entrance of the Cardinal and his entourage. What do we learn from this scene? That Guido regards his Eminence with great deference. And we are aware of something else, something that has already been set in motion. Guido lives in a society in which religion plays a pervasive role. The nuns and priests are symbols of that.

HOTEL LOBBY: It was suggested earlier that one of the questions directors should ask themselves before directing any scene is, What job does it have to do in the story? What is the job of this scene in the hotel lobby? It is devoted almost exclusively to locking down the external conflict of the film. Will Guido make his film? This is the McGuffin. The more interesting internal conflict (and its concomitant question) has not yet been clearly stated, and one of Fellini's jobs in the remainder of the first act is to begin to introduce this conflict.

• To keep the job of a scene or sequence clear for a director, it is useful to put a label on it as part of the detective work. This title can also suggest a tone. This scene might be called "bombarded from all sides." Guido is attacked as soon as he exits from the elevator, and in Fellini's elegant staging — in which Guido's escape attempts are constantly being thwarted — his frame (which signifies his personal space) is constantly violated. With beautifully choreographed, extended takes, Fellini makes Guido's plight palpable to us. And makes it amusing.

• Fellini uses 18 shots for this scene. Let's see what each shot accomplishes.

1. This wide shot of the lobby identifies immediately where we are, and that it is continuous in time from the previous scene. The camera moves to cover the action of a hotel clerk (wearing tails), and then Guido's assistant, Cesarino (wearing a white straw hat and black turtleneck), steps into the foreground of the frame and pulls the camera into Guido.

Guido's hiding behind his coat and going into his "shrinking" walk allows us to enter into his dilemma without being bored by it. (Suppose Guido's response was always somber, depressive? Even if the circumstances justify it, we would soon tire of his problem. Yes, it would still be true, but it would not be as interesting. In wanting to engage an audience, it is perfectly okay at times to entertain them, even in works of art.)

As the shot continues, Claudia's agent (balding with glasses) invades Guido's frame. Guido gets rid of the agent only to be seized by Conocchia (man in white hat and shirt who we assume has a position of importance, perhaps as assistant director. It is not important to the story that we know exactly what his position is).

Guido extricates himself from this distraction and makes his way to an obligation, the Actress's agent, pays his respects, and then makes his pilgrimage to an albatross, the Actress herself. (The choice of inflated action verbs and exaggerated nouns for dynamic relationships pushes a director to create scenes that are larger than life, and in the present context, comic.)

2. On the cut to the Actress, the camera pushes in on her slightly, mimicking Guido's movement toward her. The new shot gives added importance to this new character and we understand that she is significant. The Actress stands to inquire about her screen test. This movement makes her pestering more aggressive, while at the same time economically setting up Daumier for his inclusion in the conversation.

3. The close-up of the Actress articulates the attention she is expecting from Guido.

4. The cut back to the three-shot sets the stage for a barrage on Guido. First, the American journalist, who is shunted aside by Agostini, whose position is usurped by Claudia's agent, and who loses Guido's attention to a mystery lady (large-brimmed hat). This is her entrance into the film.

5. The close-up of the mystery lady signifies her importance in the film. (Her job in the film is thematic, representing the untouchable, the unknowable, aspect of womanhood.)

6. When the shot returns to Guido, he is still observing the mystery lady, still talking to Claudia's agent, but Fellini's camera has crossed to the other side of Guido, imparting a sense of dramatic escalation. And sure enough, the camera widens slightly, announcing that Cesarino is hovering. Guido uses him as an excuse to escape from the agent, only to be cut off by the American journalist and his Italian wife, whose pushy presence is rendered in a close-up that ends this shot.

7. The cut to the next shot articulates the relentlessness of the concerted attack on Guido and sets the stage for the entrance of the prospective "fathers."

8. Guido's close-up articulates his inability to make a decision.

9. The shot over Guido's shoulder extends his indecisiveness, but more importantly places the camera angle away from the staircase, so that Guido can turn into the shot and finally discover the person he seems to have been looking for throughout this entire scene.

10. In the high, wide shot Guido pays extreme homage to this mystery personage, piquing our interest, and setting the stage for an entrance.

11. A nice contrast in angles — high to low — for the entrance of the producer and his entourage coming down the stairs.

12. The reverse angle points up the shapeliness of a woman we immediately assume is the producer's girlfriend, while it compresses the time it takes to descend the stairs.

13. The close-up of the producer from over Guido's shoulder locks down his importance in the film and sets up the next shot — the close-up of the girlfriend — needed for the comic exchange between them.

14. The close-up of the producer rendering his attitude to the pool question from the girlfriend is as full an explanation of their relationship as this story requires. (Notice that the second person in the producer's entourage gracefully fades away.)

15. The three-shot resolves separation between the producer, the girlfriend, and Guido, but more importantly story-wise it punches up the producer's gift of the wristwatch to Guido. Between it, and Guido's bowing, the nature of their relationship is quickly established. Each needs the other.

16. The close-up of the girlfriend for the line "It's self-winding" is for comic effect.

17. The two-shot of Guido and the producer extends their symbiotic relationship, but more importantly serves to frame the producer's statement, "Well, I hope your ideas are clear by now."

18. Whether they are or not is a large question mark that hangs in the air over the high, wide shot of everyone exiting the lobby.

• This scene feels like it could be the end of Act One because Guido's external dilemma is so clearly defined. But in addition to the introduction of Guido's internal conflict, there is still one more crucial element of the story that must be developed further before the rising action of the second act can begin. It is the urgency for the deeper journey Guido must make into his psyche. It has not yet been established as his only salvation. Yes, we realize he has a problem, but it does not yet seem insurmountable. The fire must become hotter; the screws have to be turned tighter in order to force Guido to seek for a solution to his dilemma inside himself. And just as importantly, the last sequence in this first act must prepare us to accept that urgency along with the primacy of this interior universe, which we will inhabit, along with Guido, for all of the significant action for the remainder of the film.

"CABARET" SCENE: The close-up of the female singer supplies an energizing transition from the wide shot of the hotel lobby. We don't know where we are, but the next shots begin to supply the answer. Because Fellini has already revealed the space earlier, we are oriented very quickly and feel comfortable here. From out of the general populace, Gloria and Mezzabota appear. His unabashed happiness is in direct contrast to the cut to Guido, alone, wearing the Pinocchio nose. Notice how the scene unfolds. We continue receiving new information about who is present and what the dynamics are between characters, saving the reveal of Carla, a "safe" distance from Guido, for last. The large space between them is a reminder of the propriety that Guido, the husband, maintains in the social sphere. Of course it is a lie, and he knows it — hence his donning the "Pinocchio" nose.

• Fellini maintains a leisurely pace, letting us get into the rhythm of the participants, but he understands this cannot go on too long. So, he escalates the action by jumping the narrative ahead, using Nino Rota's music to propel us into the middle of a passionate outburst of frustration by the actress, Claudia. The music continues, driving the producer's question, "Didn't our director explain your role to you?" This little peak of dramatic tension dissipates, but it has changed the dynamics of the scene and its rhythm enough so that Fellini can become "quiet" again for Guido's talk with Mezzabota. (A dramatic musical phrase was also used to energize the cut to the beginning of this scene — the close-up of the female singer — which will be used again shortly.)

• The magician is illuminated by a spotlight, the beginning of a visual motif that will have its payoff in the last shot of the film.

• Realizing that he will need the blackboard for the end of the scene, Fellini weaves it into the background of several shots, quietly announcing to us its existence. (This preparing the audience for something that is important to a scene, but not necessarily endemic to it, is the same job Weir was aware of in The Truman Show when he introduced the magnifying glass to us and kept it alive, before it was needed.)

• Gloria's fright is a put-on — inauthentic — keeping her thematic persona alive.

• The phrase "Asa Nisi Masa" is the key that unlocks Guido's unconscious. (It can be translated as anima, a Jungian term meaning soul or spirit.) For Guido it is a magical phrase from his childhood, and he goes back there to try to find a solution to his lack of inspiration through magic.

• Maurice (in top hat and tails) asks the question, "What does it mean?," marking the end of Act One. All of the major characters have been introduced. (Although Guido's wife has not materialized, in reality we have seen her briefly, but memorably, in his dream. Saraghina, his first sexual memory, has been hinted in the theme music that was played under the role-playing scene in Carla's hotel room, where Guido painted Carla to look more like Saraghina.) The dilemma for the external conflict (making the film) has been firmly established, as has Guido's penchant for looking into himself for answers. It is here the seeds have been planted for the emergence of the film's main conflict — Guido's need to live a life without a lie — but this has not yet been developed to the point where we realize it. In fact, that question will not be fully articulated until the end of Act Two, although we will certainly be able to "smell" it before then.

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