The Voice of the Moon Review
Federico Fellini is one of the largest figures in Italian cinema, with films like La Dolce Vita (1960) and 8 1/2 (1963) cluttering a pretty critically acclaimed filmography. His blend of Italian surrealism has been a big influence on the rest of Italian Cinema and on global movie makers from Woody Allen and Francois Truffaut to Martin Scorsese and Joel Schumacher. His long film career stretches from 1950 to 1990, and it is the year 1990 that we focus on, the year that his last film was released, The Voice of the Moon or La voce della luna; a film that polarised the world’s film critics. The Italian and French lavished praise on the Italian maestro's swansong and the Americans trashed it as a boring glide down a beautifully shot, but inevitably shallow, film.
Ivo Salvini (Roberto Benigni) is a recently released mental patient who is both infatuated with the moon and Aldina Ferruzzi (Nadia Ottaviani), whose beauty is comparable to the moon. During his attempts to gain Aldina's good graces Ivo meets many an odd character in a sort of Alice in Wonderland structured adventure.
I am going to be upfront, I did not like it at all. It is a slow, meandering, pretentious two hours that doesn't seem to know where it is going. That might be because Fellini improvised the entire thing, with actors working out the plot as they went along. This may just be my own personal bias against Italian cinema. I cannot get over one technique that seems so prevalent in all the films I have seen where they re-dub their dialogue in post, leaving an awkward sound mix and some slightly off lip-synch. I am also not a big fan of Roberto Benigni, the tiny, irritating, overly exuberant director and star of Life is Beautiful and Pinnochio. In The Voice of the Moon, he is more down to earth and a little more introspective but he still rubs me up the wrong way, and he never, ever shuts up when he is onscreen, and as one of the main characters, he is onscreen constantly.
To be honest though just because I don't like the film doesn't mean that others will not. There is plenty to recommend, not least the talent that produced it. Fellini himself is a cinematic legend and has produced top-notch films. Set designer Dante Ferretti has crafted some unique set pieces in his day for Terry Gilliam and Tim Burton; for Fellini and this, he creates some of the most elaborate sets imaginable. All of which are filmed by The Good, The Bad and the Ugly's cinematographer, Tonino Delli Colli. Visually this film has the pedigree to market itself.
As I have already mentioned, the story is slow and meandering, while the dialogue and characters are annoying. The latter's quality can be ascribed to the slightly pretentious faux-philosophical ponderings of those just making it up as they go along. The former is a stylistic choice made by Fellini to evoke a dream-like quality. The story is based on a novel by Ermanno Cavazzoni, The Lunatic’s Poem, and is supposed to be about a group of crazy people trying to listen to their inner desires. Fellini criticises the way that society has drowned out the inner quiet that is supposed to heal men's souls, symbolised in the film by the quiet whispers of the moon to Ivo. It is a very personal theme that Fellini was passionate about, and it is perhaps the only thing that holds your attention, watching the last passion project of an Italian cinematic genius.
This film is going to divide people. Those who are more into art films are going to find this to be a meditation on the soul and a critique of a capitalist society that drowns out the more artistic yearnings of humanity, while others, like me, are in for a slog of irritating philosophical nonsense, jarring segue-ways into segments of absolute nothing.
One thing that I can commend is how Arrow Academy has put the disc together. The film is presented in 1080p on Blu-ray from a 2K restoration and it really does pop out on the disc in all it’s baroque, night-time splendour. Audibly the film is in its original Italian dubbed with a 1.0 mono soundtrack and optional English subtitles that are easy to read. Technically, The Voice of the Moon is well presented without digital or audio errors and is, in fact, incredibly tactile in its feel. Also included is a theatrical trailer and a making-of documentary to help out those who still don't get the film though it can also get a little pretentious with actor and director interviews.
The Voice of the Moon is a film that I am glad is getting a UK Blu-ray release. Granted, it wasn't for me but it is the first step to a truly global market of different films made by a variety of people on a plethora of topics available to everyone. For me, I will probably leave it up there on the shelf, like the moon in the sky. It is too long, too whimsical and holds too much of the things that I cannot enjoy about Italian film. However, if you are into Italian cinema, Fellini, or dream-like explorations of modern Italian society, this Arrow Academy release has been made especially for you.