In his “And the Ship Sails On” Federico Fellini concentrates his sarcasm on special moments in history when two histories – that of human societies and the masses, and that of the social elites, cross one another. The time when actions in the film take place is July 1914, after Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie were killed by a Serbian terrorist, and that brought the world to WWI. The film is dedicated to finding out what the European elite was occupied with during the one of the most horrifying wars in human history.

Fellini depicts the cruise in Mediterranean Sea by an international group of fans of opera art who are grieving the death of a famed opera singer, the carrier of goddess-like voice. We follow this funeral voyage set to disperse the deceased’s ashes, observing and identifying with the elevating beauty of the art of opera singing, but also following Fellini‘s laughter at the extreme megalomania and absurdity of the characters – the professional aristocracy of belle canto cult. The film puts us in cognitive dissonance which Fellini amends with the charm of his artistry as a film-director.

The numerous characters Fellini unwrapping in front of us like Christmas presents or chocolate candies, are perverts in their very human attempts to be super-human. They are exposed in their vanity and debunked in their artificiality in spite of being somehow touching in their awkward attempts to deserve our recognition and admiration.

Fellini’s film provides the viewers simultaneously, with a catharsis and a withdrawal from identification, with a chance to recognize themselves in the characters and step back because of our embarrassing understanding of our similarity with them, self-aggrandized, stupid and beyond meaning (with all their talents and ambitions). Fellini makes us conscious of our own efforts to live, as if, above our life, in pompous spirituality and aesthetic cult.

Fellini makes his sailing Ship
Fellini makes his sailing Ship

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You have to make a really ugly effort to produce a vocal beauty

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The old music professor drinks sounds from the wine glasses

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The grand Duke poses before an admiring public like today’s billionaires before the crowd of poor wealth-worshippers

Posted on Jan 24 2013 –   Federico Fellini’s “And the Ship Sails On” (1983) – A Subtle Comedy about Conventional Tragedy by Acting-Out Politics