Federico Fellini’s Juliet of the Spirits (Giulietta Degli Spiriti), is a surrealist’s dream. The 1965 film is a colourful merging of fantasy and reality, which sees Fellini’s real-life wife (Giulietta Masina) take centre stage as the bored housewife who discovers that her husband is having an affair.
Juliet of the Spirits is Fellini’s first feature length film in Technicolor and he embraces the medium with gusto, using bright, primary colours to shine a light on our leading lady’s dreams and fantasies. Even the reality-based sequences have an off-kilter quality – the film’s opening party sequence is almost claustrophobic in its energy. Gianni Di Venanzo’s luscious cinematography and Nina Rota’s score add to Fellini’s cinematic treat, helping heighten the director’s surrealist motifs.
Often seen as a gift to his wife, Juliet of the Spirits plays like Giulietta Masina’s own internal dialogue on Fellini himself (the director was a well-known philanderer). In many ways it’s a companion piece to his previous film, 8 1/2 which saw Marcello Mastroianni play a thinly veiled version of Fellini. That film, like Juliet of the Spirits sees Sandra Milo play a pneumatic vixen – the polar opposite to Massina’s homely house-wife. Masina’s role is well played, keeping her character grounded as the Italian director spins the film like a tornado around her.
Juliet of the Spirits is another powerful cinematic endeavour from Federico Fellini. It’s energetic and fantastical but like the rest of his work, it has a strong emotional core.