Alexander Walker’s review published on Letterboxd:
A wonderful surrealist drama about filmmaking and self discovery and a directing masterclass from Federico Fellini. This is an audacious display of creativity where sound, editing, cinematography and mise en scene combine to form a work of beautiful expression.
Guido( Marcello Mastroianni) is an arrogant director trying to make a film but is beset by self doubt and resistant to any negative opinion of his work that might reveal a weakness that he would rather deny. Guido's attempt at ' stitching the threads of his life together' to create great art may be pointless when he is possibly ' incapable of loving.' He has an understanding of all of the components of cinema but he is missing the fundamental ingredient that would give his work meaning. His exuberance is often subsequently displaced by a feeling of apprehension. Paradoxically it is ultimately an understanding of the need to submit to the more mystifying aspects of life that will eventually give Guido the clarity that he desires where by the end : ' Everything is confused again but that confusion is me. Not how I'd like to be.' Relying on his own experiences for artistic inspiration might prove fruitless as it's suggested that our memories are unreliable and 'steeped' in the artificiality of nostalgia.
Just like in Fellini's other great works life's contradictory nature can cause mental conflict. Observe a scene where Guido tends to his sick mistress( Sandra Milo) and appears to be benevolent but the feeling is only momentary until he starts to remember his film and becomes dreamily lost within his imagination. A perfect example of the blurring between fantasy and reality that is shown throughout ' Eight and a Half.' We are also told early on that Guido has a weak liver and there is a sense of urgency about his need to create with the march of time emphasised in a scene where he is given a watch as a present.
In 'Eight and a Half' the camera has its own personality. When Fellini wants to show his characters in states of unencumbered joy he uses a variety of panning and tracking shots. This is occasionally contrasted with a camera that is stationary when he wants to convey something that is rigid and austere. The use of sound is also significant, ranging from the discordant squeaking of windscreen wipers( the opening scene ) to the organic and serene : birdsong, or the sound of running water.
Fellini's magnum opus takes the basic principles of film, refines each element and also conveys its own distinctive language. One to watch again and again. Pure cinema.