While I was watching Fellini’s masterpiece “E La Nave Va” in a DVD I was surprised to find in it a blind character who managed to see colors through the sound of different voices. It was performed by the iconic choreographer Pina Bausch. The Italian director chose her to voice one of his comments about destruction and war: the blind princess Lherimia could not find any color in an Army General’s voice.
I once read, somewhere, that the rhinoceros in the movie was an homage to Ionesco’s play and chosen to represent the totalitarian defensive armor, but I think this interpretation lacks support. However, it led me to imagine if Fellini was aware of V.Nabokov’s synesthesia and introduced it as an homage to him?
No, no way ( an absurd conjecture, just like the one related to the Ionesco reference seemed to be). Google search informed me that not only Fellini was a synaesthete, but Pina Baush too. So… no direct links to Nabokov, but lots of interesting clues about Synesthesia that are worth sharing here.
On an article about Fellini, his vision and his childhood memories we read that:
“ This Rimini, implicit in the images, is always present in the language, dubbed in its words. In 1947, upon his return to the city destroyed by war, Fellini, by this time Roman, listens to the sound of the names and the words of the survivors in the "lunar crater" of the Rimini debris. He recognises them and they can be recognised in the synesthesia of his coloured listening. An ability to find a balance among the sounds, colours, and shapes, which Fellini attributes to some characters in his films (Lerinia, the Pina Bausch of E la nave va or in the planned film Viaggio a Tulłn), but which is, above all, his. "There was a time during my childhood – he explains in an interview – during which I suddenly visualized the chromatics corresponding to sounds. An ox bellowing in my grandmother's stall, I saw an enormous reddish-brown rug that was flapping in the wind in front of me. It came closer, compressed, and became a thin strip which entered my right ear. Three bells in the bell tower? Here are three silver discs removing themselves from up there in the bell and reaching my eyebrow fibrillating, disappearing into my head. I could go on for a good hour, believe me". We are also bound to believe in his colourful perception of city names. While he only associated Rimini with "a word made up of poles, toy soldiers in a line", Rome sounds to him like"a big red face, an expression rendered heavy and thoughtful from gastrosexual needs: I think of a brown, slimy Southerner: of an expansive broken sky, forming the base of the works, with the colours violet, yellowish glows, black, silver: gloomy colours. But, in summary, it is a comforting face". / Fellini lives his dialect – not easy to understand: "like a Chinese person talking with his head under water" (FF) – to the point that even a swearword like "Osciadlamadona" [Host of the Virgin Mary] seemed to him like a more beautiful sound than "Roshomon". This is proven by the phonetic sequence that – as with "AsaNIsiMAsa"1, – made up his talisman word: "Amarcord". Discovered through scribbles, this "hard, gothic, arcane word" is chosen in place of the old title "Ebourg" to be conserved forever in the memory. Amarcord, however, writes Fellini, is "a bizarre little word, a music box, a phonetic somersault a cabalistic sound, the brand of an aperitif..." " A word which, in its extravagance, could become the synthesis, the reference point, almost a sonic reverb of a feeling, a state of being, a behaviour, a way of feeling and thinking which is twofold, contradictory, the co–existence of two opposites, the fusion of two extremes such as detachment and nostalgia, judgement and complexity, rejection and adhesion, softness and irony, annoyance and torment". Is Amarcord, as a proper noun, the explicit synonym for Rimini?! http://www.paolofabbri.it/traduzioni/fellini_return.html
Here, Pina Bausch and Wim Wenders:
1. firstname.lastname@example.org Sundance selects A Deux with Wender’s “Pina” (March 31st,2011) – Sundance Selects announced today that the company is acquiring all U.S. rights to celebrated director Wim Wenders’ (WINGS OF DESIRE, BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB) 3D documentary PINA. Wenders also wrote the screenplay for the picture and produced it along with Gian-Piero Ringel (PALERMO SHOOTING). PINA, an in-depth look into the work of iconic dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch, world-premiered at the 2011 Berlin Film Festival where it became the most discussed film of the festival. In addition, HanWay Films has licensed PINA in over 40 territories internationally.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nk12SOSOtNc&feature=player_embedded Dancer Pina Bausch is legendary. As celebrated as Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham, she transformed the language of dance. Designed to ignite emotion in the viewer, her unique multi-media creations offered a visual experience like no other. Now we can experience the synesthesia of her elemental choreography as if performed for us in the flesh. Filmed by the great European pioneer of 3D photography, Alain Derobe, this revolutionary 3D film captures the thrilling aesthetic of Pina Bausch’s greatest productions. Jonathan Sehring, President of Sundance Selects, said: “Since the Berlinale ended, our team has remained completely mesmerized by Wim Wenders tribute to the legendary late choreographer Pina Bausch. This one-of-a-kind spectacle is going to knock out not only dance fans but anyone interested in great cinema. This is Wim Wenders at the top of his game, and we couldn’t be happier to be in business with him and our friends at Hanway Films again.”
2. I’ve mentioned Synaesthesia . It’s the theory behind why some people hear smells, see sounds or feel light. This happens because their brains are wired-up slightly differently to the rest of us. I hesitate to use the word ‘incorrectly’ because it’s not a matter of right or wrong. It’s just different. For me Synaesthesia explains how it is that some artists can produce radically different work – sometimes at a level that us mere mortals struggle to comprehend. They are describing an utterly private perception of reality. When we see and appreciate work that is truly ‘way out there’ it may be that we are seeing a true synaesthetist at work. It can be intimidating. How can we ever aspire to produce work like this ? […] Oh, and go and see Wim Wenders film ‘Pina’, about the brilliant German Choreographer Pina Bausch. In my opinion a genuine synaesthete and a truly remarkable film. https://ravenseyegallery.wordpress.com/2012/11/10/more-on-synaesthesia/
More on Pina, Fellini and Kandinsky: “ In 1983, Bausch appeared as the Principessa Lherimia in a Fellini film. She explains to the assembled dinner guests her concept of sound/color synethesia, a topic I discussed in a piece I wrote last year about the Kandinsky retrospective at the Guggenheim. * (Cf. also JANUARY 17, 2011 )
*John Bailiwick’s article on Bausch and Kandinsky is a great read…