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(Previously – Satyricon 14 – Scene VIII: Trimalchio’s Tomb and the Widow of Ephesus)

15aSomehow Eumolpus has escaped the kitchen of Trimalcho and wanders, supported by Encolpius, through a cultivated field. The movie returns the focus to Encolpius after the lengthy Trimalchio episode where he was largely in the background.

Note how the quiet, almost serene, field immediately follows the loud laughs of Hermeros’ audience. Again noise is contrasted with silence and connected via a jump cut.

15bThe cultivated field reminds us that Trimalchio’s unfinished villa (in the film) lay in the countryside and these two now wander through nature.  However, the nature is rather barren and smoky.   In the original screenplay, Encolpius found a battered Eumolpus in a ditch and helped him away from the villa.  Fellini eventually jettisoned that explanatory exposition and simply had the two men appear together in the field after a fade out of the Widow of Ephesus scene.

Notice the opening composition:  The rows of furrows run in straight lines.  Their lines converge at the horizon, which is more or less in the center of the shot.  Two things become the focus of the central foreground: the muddy puddle and the two shadowy men limping toward it.

“Poets may die…” – In this scene, Eumolpus believes he is dying and, as a poet, muses on what that means. (He is not dying but this foreshadows his actual death at the end of the film.) He proclaims that since Encolpius is witness to his final moments, he is his heir. In poetic fashion, Eumolpus declares he can only bequeath what he himself possessed: poetry, the seasons (“especially spring and summer”), the wind, the sun, the sea, and other parts of nature. He lets the earth, his legacy, run through his fingers. He says, “You’ll look at them, and maybe remember our brief friendship.”

There is also a contrast with this touching, quiet “funeral” scene, and the fake, bombastic wake of Trimalchio’s we just witnessed.

15c

Encolpius, possibly still drunk, greets the poet’s speech with laughter, lying back on the ground next to the puddle. But he soon becomes enamored of the poet’s words. In a wonderful isolated shot, he reaches his hand up to try and touch the clouds, the nature Eumolpus is describing.

15d

The camera shows an overhead shot of a bloody Eumolpus (off-center) continuing to list his bequest. The items grow more abstract, his voice grows softer, until his list stops, truncated, unfinished. A return to the opening establishing shot shows both men have fallen asleep (or died?) next to the puddle. The sound of wind establishes itself on the soundtrack.

This entire, brief scene is actually quite beautiful. The idea that the poor poet can only bequeath free things of beauty is touching and rather Epicurean in its focus on the simple joys of life:

If I were as rich as Trimalchio, I’d leave you some land or a ship. But I can only leave you what I had myself. I leave you poetry. I leave you the seasons, especially spring and summer. I leave you the wind, the sun. I leave you the sea, the good sea. The earth is good, too. The mountains, streams, and rivers. And the big clouds that move by, solemn and light. You’ll look at them and maybe remember our brief friendship. And I leave you the trees and their agile inhabitants. Love, tears, joy, stars, Encolpius. I leave you sounds, songs, noises. The voice of man, which is the most harmonious of music. I leave you…

The speech seems to have been the creation of Fellini. It may have been suggested by Encolpius’ words in a different section of the novel (and in a much different context):

“Aren’t the best things in life free to all? The sun shines on everyone. The moon, accompanied by countless stars, leads even the beasts to pasture. What can you think of lovelier than water? But it flows for the whole world.” (section 100)

In the novel, Encolpius finds his way back from Trimalchio’s with Giton easily because the boy had previously indicated their route with chalk marks on columns. This scene is an invention of Fellini’s to move Encolpius onward from the Trimalchio episode. In the original script, they were in an urban environment and pausing beside a fountain. Eumolpus’ speech was also not as succinct and profound.

Suleiman Ali Nashnush Federico FelliniIn Fellini’s original script this scene continued.  A giant under the control of Tryphaena found the two sleeping men. She was the mysterious woman Encolpius locked eyes with at the dinner. This scene was filmed and an 8’ tall Muslim carpet merchant and basketball player from Tunisia played the giant. Fellini had him flown in especially to be in the film. It was another “odd body” that Fellini was enamored of, but the entire scene, where the giant picked up Encolpius to transport him to the next episode, was cut. Instead, we are not told how or why Encolpius suddenly finds himself shanghaied with some old friends. And we do not know as well what happened to Eumolpus. More unanswered questions as the plot lurches forward.[1]

(Up Next: Satyricon 16 – Scene X: Encolpius Captured)

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[1] Hughes, Eileen (1971), On the Set of Fellini-Satyricon (Morrow), p. 125-6.

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