The American writer interviewed by Fellini in one of the final scenes of Rome says: “You will be wondering why ever an American writer should be living in Rome. First of all because I like Romans the way they don’t care at all if you are dead or alive: they are neutral, as the cats. Rome is the city of illusions, it is not a chance that the Church, Government, and Cinema, all things that produce illusion, as you do and as we do, are here. More and more this world goes towards its end because too much inhabited with cars, poisons and which place better than this city, who died many times and many times was reborn, which quieter place to wait for the end by pollution, overpopulation. The ideal place to see if the world will end or not.” Rome the eternal city, then.
The first image of Rome that Fellini keeps in his memory is the one of a mile stone that stood outside his village, in the middle of the countryside. But from the times of the elementary school, in the college of the priests, he could collect further information about Rome. Therefore, mentioning the fatal words by Julius Cesar, “alea iacta est”, as a schoolboy he was able to cross the Rubicone too and to see in slides the main monuments of the capital: Saint Mary the Major, the tomb of Cecilia Metella, the arch of Costantine, the Altar of the Father land, Saint Peter’s… and any other beautiful monument, that he proudly had slipped into the projection, being generally of exclusive use and consumption of some priests. Rome represented when a child the Pope’s Sunday blessing broadcasted on the radio, that made his father go crazy, a layman with Socialist ideas. But Rome was also the movies interpreted by Greta Garbo and set at the time of the Emperors.
Completely different from the reality of the town that Fellini finds upon his arrival at the Termini station, when he arrives to undertake the journalist career. It is a noisy and popular Rome, busy with the needs of the daily living and with the problems of the inflation. We go so through the city in this “portrait of the artist as a young man”. From Termini station we are lead towards Piazza Esedra (nowadays Piazza della Repubblica), crossing along the way Saint Mary the Major and a glimpse, beyond the medieval walls, of Saint John in Lateran. The final destination is the apartment of a palace that the landlady and her son share with ten other tenants, among whom there are minor actors who try to keep up their tone, making the parody of the Duce: “I refuse to believe that the authentic people of Great Britain who never had a dispute with Italy should throw Europe in a catastrophe in order to defend an African country universally marked without a shadow of civilization, against these people of heroes, artists, poets, saints, voyagers… baldheads…”
In the evening the roads of the district are lively animated with people eating out in the trattorias, while every sort of musicians, beggars and friars pass asking for a coin, and the voices, the music, the songs and the fussing all confuse in a single noise, as if the quarter were one single big family. In the deepest night, when all is still and what you hear are only the barks of stray dogs wandering about, when the labourers of the trolley buses make their repairs and in the area of the Roman Fora or the Appian Way you see from the darkness a car headlights with a prostitute on board that seems to appear from the darkness of bygone centuries, as the ancient she-wolf that is the symbol of the city.
Roma, Federico Fellini part II >>