Fellini in his “Casanova” (1976) was masterfully able to avoid the four hungry traps by which most films about the “Italian adventurer” of 18th century were swallowed and devoured. The first is trivialization and vulgarization of Casanova as a carrier of “hyper-gonadic” sexual desires. The second, is the romanticization of Casanova as a model of amour-hero, as an insatiable heart. The third trap is to ignore Casanova as a human being regardless of his monumental sexual status in history, as a man outside the realms of sex and love. And finally, it is trying to make aesthetically cheap but pocket-full “blockbuster” cashing Casanova’s sexual achievements into today’s currency. Fellini found a way to make a serious film about Casanova – a comic aspect of things, an irony and wit, characterization of the epoch, the analysis of human nature.

According to Fellini, Casanova (besides paying generous tribute to love and sex) was an extraordinary personality and a highly intelligent man, a scholar, of sorts. More, his amorous and sexual affairs were impregnated by his desire to understand the nature of human relations. He didn’t just act out his impulses; he thought about his experiences, he tried to grasp their essence, to study them. No, Fellini doesn’t idolize or even idealize Casanova. As a matter of fact, he is quite humorous and often sarcastic about him, but humor and sarcasm are filled with compassion for what Casanova represents for Fellini – our human nature with its idealistic dreams of materialistically controlling life, with its contradictions between soul and body, with its tricks of imagination, which we take for reality.

Fellini’s Casanova resolves the strain between amour and sex better than anybody else, but he represents us all in the impossibility to completely sublimate sex. Our sexual function has an inerasable rigidity and mechanisity which cannot be completely dissolved in sentiments and orgasmic sensations. Fellini uses two symbols to emphasize this fact – Casanova’s magic box with a moving metallic bird signifying men’s sexual prowess, and the sexual doll signifying the mechanical quality of human sexual act and sexual behavior in general.

Fellini adds to the charm of Casanova’s personality his own artistry, and the result is one of the most colorful films in the history of cinema. Donald Sutherland-Casanova’s nuanced, elegant, always surprising, self-reflective and self-ironic acting (when we already cannot distinguish where is Casanova’s soul and where is Sutherland’s), is a page in the history of cinematic acting. The bright and juicy colors and stylized settings emphasize the destiny of human adventurist creativity, of seriously playful nature of human genius the film celebrates.

Fellini is rehearsing with Donald Sutherland (Giacomo Casanova)
Fellini is rehearsing with Donald Sutherland (Giacomo Casanova)

Fellini (on the left), Donald Sutherland and Michelangelo Antonioni (who pays them a visit) are on the set of “Casanova”
Fellini (on the left), Donald Sutherland and Michelangelo Antonioni (who pays them a visit) are on the set of “Casanova”

Casanova and the pretty sensual “nun”
Casanova and the pretty sensual “nun” are going to entertain the lascivious religious leader and, of course, the international cine-audience, with their sexual proficiency/ efficiency

“Better nun than one” (a modification of “better one than none”) – says the vulgar proverb of vicious wisdom. Casanova, Fellini and Donald Sutherland give us a chance to check its truthfulness.

To transform a pretty nun into an orgasmic woman you have to make an “ugly” (from the point of view of traditional religious ideology) effort

Posted on Dec 14 2013 –   Federico Fellini’s “Casanova” (1976) – Triumph Over Sexual Fetish Or Erotic Ossification Of Emotions? by Acting-Out Politics