Amarcord

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Amarcord Movie Poster Image
Fellini's bawdy coming-of-age film is brilliant but mature.
  • R
  • 1974
  • 123 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

There's an underlying theme of the ridiculousness of unjust authority -- from a dictator to a priest -- as well as the sense that the Italians are resilient and that life carries on despite extreme circumstances.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Not so much a study in heroism as it is a glimpse into ordinary people living during a specific place and time.

Violence

A father is forced to drink alcohol by Fascist interrogators. A mentally ill man sits in a tree and throws rocks at those attempting to climb the tree and take him down. Soldiers fire guns at a record player playing a "subversive" song from a bell tower.

Sex

Strong sexual content. During a confession with a priest, a boy flashes back to the women he has had sexual fantasies about. Four boys sit in a car and masturbate, moaning the names of women they are fantasizing about. There is no nudity, but the car bounces in rhythm with their movements. A large woman sits on the lap of a teen boy and has the boy suck on her exposed breasts. The prostitute of the village is often seen leering and moaning at men as they pass by.

Language

Frequent profanity: "F--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "cock," "ass," and "bastard."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adult characters smoke cigarettes. In the school bathroom, two boys share a cigarette. At the dinner table and on a picnic, characters drink wine.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Amarcord, one of Fellini's best movies and one of the most evocative coming-of-age stories ever made, does not flinch from frank sexual content. For example, in one scene, four boys in their early teens sit in a car and masturbate, moaning the names of women they're fantasizing about. In another scene, a woman sits on a teen boy's lap and shoves her exposed breasts into his face, ordering him to suck and kiss them. Several characters smoke (including teen boys in one scene) and there's some social drinking, too. Language (subtitled) is strong throughout, including "f--k," "a--hole," and more. For mature adults, Amarcord is a timeless celebration of the intersections between life, dreams, imagination, and memory.

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What's the story?

AMARCORD is a collection of instances chronicling one year in an Italian seaside village during the Fascist rule of the 1930s under Mussolini. Through scenes, narrative voiceovers, and characters speaking directly to the camera, the different characters reveal their lives, their aspirations, and their fantasies. What emerges in the interweaving vignettes is a bittersweet evocation of the past, as much a coming-of-age story about a pubescent boy and his rambunctious friends as it is a recollection of otherwise ordinary adults caught up in the confusion of fascism. The coming-of-age story and the nostalgic glimpse into the past is a mainstay of cinema -- but in Fellini's treatment of the subjects, the result is sublime and wholly original.

Is it any good?

For coming-of-age films and filmmaker's nostalgic glimpses into their childhoods, Fellini's Amarcord is as good as it gets. These oft-used genres and subject matters become wholly original, bittersweet, and unforgettable. Instead of nostalgia for place (anytime one of the characters, The Lawyer, attempts to lecture the audience on the town's storied history, he is greeted with fart noises or snowballs from fellow townspeople), or time (a scene where townspeople gather to pay tribute to Il Duce transforms into a fantasy sequence where one of the teen boys dreams of marrying the object of his affections), but of people.

This isn't a straightforward narrative, but a series of instances and recollections (Amarcord means "I Remember" in Italian) where teachers and priests seem just as oppressive as the dictator running the country. Sexually frustrated teen boys, fruit vendors with filled with farfetched stories of their adventures, mentally unstable uncles, seductive older women, and pontificating lawyers capture the eccentricities and passions of the moment, but the magic of Amarcord is when it moves far beyond nostalgia into the realm of universal human experience.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about coming-of-age films. How is this movie similar to and different from other coming-of-age films?

  • The film does not stay on one character, but shows many different characters living their lives and telling their stories. How does this approach affect your attachment to the characters and the story?

  • Where does the film reflect a specific time and place, and where does the film reflect more universal themes of humanity?

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