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Film / Fellini Satyricon

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Fellini Satyricon, sometimes simply called Satyricon, is a 1969 film from Italy directed by Federico Fellini. As often with Fellini, Nino Rota composed the soundtrack.

It is a "free adaptation" of Roman novel The Satyricon. The setting is The Roman Empire, in a vague time frame that seems to be sometime around or after the reign of Nero. A young man named Encolpius has lost his lover, a teenaged boy slave named Giton, to his roommate, Ascyltus. Encolpius, looking for Giton, finds that he has been sold to an actor named Vernacchio. Encolpius reclaims Giton from Vernacchio, only for Giton to choose Ascyltus as his lover and go away with him. Their tenement building is promptly wrecked in an earthquake. Encolpius then meets a poet, Eumolpus, who invites him to a party...

...and many more weird and surrealistic things happen as the protagonist wanders through a bizarre version of Ancient Rome that plays out like Spartacus on hallucinogens.


  • Aside Glance: Many background characters glance at the camera as it moves through Fellini's bizarre scenes.
  • Attending Your Own Funeral: Trimalchio the egomaniac stages his own funeral, going so far as to lay down in a grave while his slaves pretend to wail with grief.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Giton the boy toy slave, who is so important to the opening scenes of the movie, is eventually forgotten about and never mentioned again as Encolpius and Ascyltus go on other adventures.
  • Driven to Suicide: A rich married couple set their slaves free, then kill themselves, because whoever the new emperor is, he's not good for them. This has nothing to do with anything other than the fact that Encolpius and Ascyltus wander into the abandoned villa and have sex with one slave girl who lingered behind.
  • Fanservice: Mostly sweaty, smooth-skinned, handsome young men, Encolpius and Ascyltus most prominent. We do meet a topless slave woman who engages in three-way sex with Encolpius and Ascyltus.
  • The Film of the Book: The Satyricon exists only as fragments of what was originally a much longer work. Consequently there are gaps, and Fellini's movie deliberately lampshades this. For example, the sequence with the hermaphrodite ends with Encolpius and Ascyltus fighting the mercenary and killing him after the hermaphrodite dies. The film then moves, with absoutely no segue at all, to a scene where Encolpius has been captured by soldiers and is forced to fight a guy dressed in a Minotaur costume. There's no indication of how Encolpius got there or what happened after he and Ascyltus killed the mercenary.
  • Girl on Girl Is Hot: Averted at one point during Trimalchio's banquet: when he starts paying attention to the young boys to his side and fondling them, his wife starts kissing another woman on the lips, but Trimalchio still is more interested in the boys than her.
  • Hermaphrodite: A literal one, child of Hermes and Aphrodite, who is looked on as a demigod. Encolpius and Ascyltus get the bright idea to kidnap him/her to cure the nymphomaniac woman. Unfortunately the hermaphrodite is very very sensitive, and dies after being taken out of his cave and exposed to the elements.
  • Hong Kong Dub: This was a frequent trope in Fellini movies and in fact in much of Italian cinema of the era, as dialogue was often recorded in post-production and dubbed in. It's particularly bad here, with actors' mouths not matching their lips at all, apparently a deliberate decision by Fellini. In fact, all the actors onscreen were simply counting from one to ten.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Eumolpus's will states that everyone who wants to inherit a chunk of his fortune (and he's really rich) has to eat a piece of his body. Encolpius takes a pass but everyone else digs in.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: The rather awkward title Fellini Satyricon came about because a rival producer made a completely different movie, also titled Satyricon, invokedthat same year.
  • Kubrick Stare: Encolpius, who is very angry about his boy toy Giton being sold away, does this when he confronts Ascyltus early in the film.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: Encolpius can't get it up when trying to have sex with a woman after he's let off of the Minotaur duel. This might be because he just narrowly avoided getting killed, because he's outside in a stadium with hundreds of people watching, because he's gay, or because he's been cursed with impotence after the hermaphrodite incident, but regardless, he can't do it. Much of the final portion of the film has him trying to regain his mojo. Getting his thighs lightly whipped by a bunch of prostitutes doesn't work, but a weird fire ritual that ends in sex with a sorceress does.
    Encolpius: Ascyltus, my sword is blunted!
  • Love Triangle: Encolpius and Ascyltus, young men and rivals for the affections of a teenaged boy slave.
  • No Ending: Encolpius boards a ship. He says in voiceover that "I met a young Greek who told me that in the years—". The voiceover is cut off. Then there's a shot of all the main characters, rendered as drawings on the walls of a Roman ruin. Then the movie ends. This is a nod to the source material, which only survives in fragments and ends in the middle of a sentence.
  • Playing with Fire: Or rather cursed with fire. When the witch Oenothea pisses off a wizard, he casts a spell that puts out all the fires in the town, and tells the townspeople that to get fire back they have to look under her clothes. So now Oenothea is stuck spending her days basically birthing fire out of her crotch, as the townspeople come in one at a time and light torches by sticking them between her legs.
  • Random Events Plot: Encolpius looks for his boy toy, Encolpius goes to a party, Encolpius gets kidnapped and them forcibly married to the captain of a slave ship, Ascyltus has sex with a crazed nymphomaniac in a wagon in the desert, Encolpius and Ascyltus kidnap a hermaphrodite...
  • Really Gets Around: Taken to a pathological extreme when our heroes meet a woman in a wagon, who has been tied down because she is a raging nymphomaniac who'll have sex with any man she can find.
  • Surrealism: The plot, such as it is, is really just a frame for Fellini's strange and disturbing imagery. At Trimalchio's party, there are a bunch of naked people jumping up and down in a pit filled with white mist. After Trimalchio's party, Encolpius goes to sleep in the desert—and somehow wakes up on a beach.
  • Three-Way Sex: Encolpius and Ascyltus have sex with a beautiful slave girl they find in an abandoned villa. They seem more interested in each other.
  • Toilet Humor: Vernacchio the actor farts loudly onstage as part of his act.
  • Too Important to Walk: Trimalchio and his fancy guests are carried on litters to his tomb, before Trimalchio acts out a mock funeral. So is the super-rich Eumolpus. Truth in Television for the Roman upper class.