Fellini’s « 8 ½ » : where 9 doesn’t follow 8 費里尼的「九唔搭八」 (ENG + 中)
"ASA NISI MASA" — what's the matter? 咩嚟㗎？
ENG / [往下見 中文版]
“9 doesn’t follow 8” is a Cantonese idiom, meaning that things are nonsensical, or literally, “it doesn’t follow.” I know many artists have ever received such criticism at least once in their creative career. However, with our growing understanding of “consciousness” and “behavioural science”, we get to know that human behaviours are influenced by one’s way of thinking and the consequent emotional needs. People carry the “madness” label simply because others don’t understand why they do what they do. In this way, our prejudice for anything that seemingly doesn’t follow is merely due to our lack of understanding about it.
Federico Fellini is a 20th-century Italian film director known for his fervent creativity. His masterpiece 8 ½ is intertwined with plots whimsical and realistic, heavily-loaded with symbols relevant to his life and upbringing. The film is both hailed and hated. People often fall in love with the fantasy-like narrative and stylish mise-en-scène, yet frustrated by the jumpy storytelling and the director’s cryptic metaphors. Such experience leaves the audience feeling “it’s sensational but it doesn’t make sense”.
Indeed, many hidden meanings and self-referential details were only deciphered or reconstructed by scholars and critics from bits and pieces of anecdotes and interview records periods after the release of this semi-autobiography. Now that we have better knowledge of the film’s symbols and contexts, we can get better insight of the director’s idea formation and expression.
As mentioned in his interview with Giovanni Grazzini, Fellini treasures intuitive insights which are innately born with us. This is something everyone is capable of as a child, however gradually lost in the process of culturation and socialization when we desensitized ourselves, replacing natural intuition with artificial rules and norms.
While a lot of literature shows that Fellini never demystified the enigma of “ASA NISI MASA”, there are reviews pointing towards an interpretation as being a children’s wordplay encryption of “anima” in Latin, meaning the “soul” – the source of vitality, essence of life.
This interpretation intriguingly echoes Fellini’s clairvoyance and belief in intuition. If we look into the idea formation, narrative of 8 ½ and their relations with consciousness, we may be able to harvest from the creative fruition of human souls besides cinematic enjoyment.
In the film, Guido was the lead star of a film called “Life”. In his filmic journey, he had moments of doubts and self-denial, troubled by different characters and alter-egos. A man’s life, in itself, is an unceasing dialogue between the self and the soul. Guido’s transposing between scenes of the real and the imaginary was in fact dramatisation and visualisation of his conscious and subconscious monologues. Other characters’ surrounding Guido was his ego’s inner battles from the perspectives of different stakeholders. Each of them had their own desires and requests, pushing Guido to turn to himself, ruminating from day into the dreams of night, leaving him still twined in the threads of thought even after waking and facing yet another new challenge of life. Towards the end of the film, Guido eventually overcame his fears. He broke free from worries and attachments that had jeopardised him since childhood, and reconciled with his past self. By this he regained courage and confidence towards different aspects of life, which led to a life of joy and wholeness with his different encounters.
費里尼在與影評人Giovanni Grazzini 的訪談錄中曾提到，他十分珍視與生俱來的直覺能力所引發的洞見。這種天賦人皆有之，只是人類從孩童到成年階段經受各種文化渲染和社會制約，過程中漸漸喪失直覺感知的敏銳度，逐漸被人為的規範和度量所支配。
《8 ½》中一再重覆的神祕語句「ASA NISI MASA」，一度成為電影史上的謎團。眾多電影研究文獻顯示，費里尼似乎從沒有解釋過這句的真正意思。不過也有評論指出，這句短語是仿效小孩的藏頭文字遊戲，每字首音取自拉丁文詞彙「anima」，意思為「soul」──靈魂、生命的泉源、生命的本相。
電影故事主人翁 Guido領銜主演「人生」這場光影夢，當中經歷不少懷疑與自我否定，穿插着內心各種各樣的形象分身。人的一生是本體意識與心靈不停的對話，Guido那現實與夢幻穿梭的每個場景，其實就是顯意識與潛意識自白的戲劇化和影像化。電影中其他角色都是 Guido 自我從不同持份者角度引發的「腦交戰」。他（她）們各有所求，令主角轉向內心反覆思忖夜有所夢，乃至夢醒後面對新的挑戰卻仍然思緒未斷。到電影結尾，主角終於克服心理障礙，放下由童年開始纏繞的執迷與心結，跟自己和解，重拾面對生活各方面挑戰的勇氣和信心，與人生中各種關係來個大團圓結局。
《8 ½》正正是人與自己重新連結、靈魂覺醒的故事。「九唔搭八」，不是因為「無厘頭」（不能理解），而是因為需要有像《8 ½》中這種成長過程才能真正連繫起來。