One Big Box of Beautiful Things
The acclaimed Dutch filmmaker Jos Stelling talks about his "perfect scene." But then aren’t all scenes perfect in Federico Fellini’s 1973 film Amarcord?
March 6, 2018 | by Creative Armenia
CA: When we first asked you to pick your "perfect scene," you told us we could choose any one from Amarcord. Why?
JS: I had a sort of Italian period in my life. It was in the 80s. And I liked everything that came from Italy. I loved Fellini. When you want to see Italy, you have to see Amarcord. It's a total view of the country: the humor, the fascism, the women, the men, the memories, the sentiments, dreams, everything. It's a perfect mosaic. You know what Amarcord means?
CA: Tell us.
JS: "I Remember." The most important thing you can do in life is making memories. And that's what the film was doing. You know, the first time you're seeing a film is the most important time. That's why people usually see their favorite films when they're 14- or 15-years old. And after that when you're 20 or 30 and you're seeing the films again, they're not so good. It's natural. You are changing, but the film is still the same.
CA: Do you remember the first time you saw the film?
JS: It was like seeing an opera for the first time. You are seeing an opera, you are thinking on the aryas, on some moments in the opera, and three-four aryas are coming back over time. So the way it stayed in my memory was that I had seen three-four films. Then when I saw it in 10 years, I was surprised that all my favorite scenes were in the same film! It was all in Amarcord. The beautiful dreams and music. Everything was there. It was one big box of beautiful things.
CA: But you selected one scene in the end. It's the one where the family picks up Uncle Theo from the mental hospital for a day out. Why did you choose that one?
JS: Well, did you laugh?
CA: Of course we did.
JS: [Laughter] I think finally when you have to choose a scene, that's the one. It's such a beautiful Italian way. I can't believe someone else would film this scene. Only Fellini could have done it. That's it.
CA: Tell us about the acting.
JS: You know, there are a couple of actors. The father was a very famous actor in Italy. But most of them are just normal people. That's what I love. You have the feeling that you're actually seeing real people. And you are.
CA: And the story?
JS: But here you have no story. Fellini has made himself totally free. The real story is the seasons and the things in the air. You see the seasons. They're rolling and going on and on. And it starts every year. It's sort of real. The morning. Then the spring. The afternoon. Then the summer. Everything is rolling. One place and one unity of time.
CA: So it seems that we're not going to talk about our scene! But we'll insist that you pick at least one thing you love most about it.
JS: The man in the tree. [Laughter] I'm totally engrossed in the man in the tree.
CA: The uncle from the mental hospital has escaped the picnic and climbed up a tree. And he's yelling something, right?
JS: "I want to have a woman!"
Watch Stelling's perfect scene from Amarcord
That's it! You know, you need to make a film about Armenia in a very funny way. Don't forget the humor. Some people are so serious they don't put humor in it. And watch Amarcord. Make a place for Amarcord in your heart.
Jos Stelling is a Dutch film director and screenwriter known for De wisselwachter (1986), The Illusionist (1983) and The Girl and Death (2012).