Voyeurism

[Redon (from Moma website)]

It was quite some time ago that I scribbled down the notes which became what will follow, but it is only recently that I've felt any inclination to do the process and work of thinking through a thought, expanding it and letting it bloom. These past few months have been filled with nothing and with everything, and it's hard to tell what will come next.

At the end of Fellini's La Dolce Vita, Marcello and the crazy party trip out onto the beach and find a sea monster. It's a giant ray which has washed up on the shore, its belly pale and fading. Two "eyes" stare up from death and Marcello states "It insists on looking."

The entire movie is a mess of voyeurism: the miracle children who are exploited and exploit the fanaticism of and rabid curiosity of the people who come to see them speak to the Virgin Mary; the paparazzi squealing around on their vespas; Marcello tossing feathers on some poor girl while a crowd of disenchanted somebodies watch.

It's an obsession with experience, and moreso with having an audience while we're experiencing something. We want someone to watch while we live. Beauty, talent, charm, and intelligence have no worth without their audience, and so we see Anita Ekberg dancing, laughing, submerged in a fountain and beautiful. We see Maddalenna and another man together while she listens to Marcello proclaim his love for her from behind a wall. For every action there is an audience, and the audience is integral in the action's existence. The film is about people acting for an audience, and about that audience dictating what is acted.

Steiner, Marcello's intellectual friend, says at one point:

We need to live in a state of suspended animation like a work of art, in a state of enchantment. We have to succeed in loving so greatly that we live outside of time, detached....detached.

He also kills his two small children and then commits suicide while his wife is away. When she returns, she is of course met by the paparazzi as they climb over one another in the attempt to capture her reaction on film.

What is the heart of the problem here? Are we watching and watched so often and so continuously that we forget what it feels like to be inside a moment? Have we forgotten what it feels like to wholly occupy a moment of time?

Fellini seems to present us with two options: Steiner's ideal which is impossible and inhuman, or Marcello's reality which is hollow, cheaply varnished, and existentially crushing.