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Fellini’s Interpretation of Petronius’s Opus Magnum: “Dinner at Trimalchio’s” in the Movie and in Reality Critical Essay

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Updated: Jul 3rd, 2019

There are many ways to honor a bygone era and its glorious personalities. With the advent of cinema, the process of giving tribute to the connoisseurs seems to have become much easier; however, the simplicity of the task is only what one can see on the surface.

Digging deeper, one will be able to see the numerous challenges lying in front of the moviemaker, starting from the threat of misinterpreting the work to merely miscasting an actor for a crucial role. That being said, it is necessary to consider Fellini’s Satyricon as a way to both honor the memory and discuss the contribution of Petronius with his famous work.

By reconstructing every possible element of the scene and adding the details that help convey the veracity of this scene and, therefore, help the movie transcend the boundaries of not only its genre, but also its universe, Fellini makes the scene as real as it can possibly be, making the audience sink into the realm of the Ancient Rome.

When speaking of the visual elements of the scene, one must admit that Fellini did his best to reconstruct the air of the epoch along with its architecture. While the setting does look impressively grandeur, it would have still been much like a cardboard cutting unless Fellini had incorporated other elements of the Antiquity into the scene to restore the spirit of the Roman Empire.

To start with, Fellini uses fresco in a very interesting manner. As Paul explains, “Most striking is Fellini’s use of the fresco, perhaps today’s most fragile remnant of ancient visual culture, so quickly does it fragment and fade” (Paul 213).

Of course, it would be wrong to believe that Fellini’s Satyricon is the exact imprint of the original; claiming the opposite would be disrespectful towards both Fellini and Petronius. To start with, the conversations that took place in the course of the dinner must have been the figment of Fellini’s fiction, for Paul does not indicate what conversations exactly tool place in the original version of the story.

As Paul explains, “In the finished film, the narrative rupture between the dinner at Trimalcione’s and the voyage on Lica’s ship is marked; in the treatment, though, Encolpius is introduced to Lichas and his wife Tryphaena […] at the dinner” (Paul 205). Although these details might seem inconsistent at first, as the story unwinds, the audience sees that these details add to the plot and character development.

Therefore, it can be considered that, despite a few discrepancies and misconceptions, Fellini managed to get across not only the air of the epoch, but also the atmosphere of the dinner, show the people in action, restoring the tiniest elements of the notorious dinner.

Despite the fact that Fellini has to add a couple of details for the sake of keeping the running time, it was still clear that the movie managed to capture the spirit of the original scene rather well, helping at the same time build the characters, as well as develop the relationships between them to transcend to the next scene.

Even with several minor additions to the plot, the scene of the dinner at Trimalchio’s looks doubtlessly familiar and does remind much about the initial description.

Works Cited

Paul, Joanna. “Fellini-Satyricon. Petronius and Film.” Parg, Jonathan R. W. and Ian D. Repath (eds.) Petronius: A Handbook. Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. 198–217. Print.

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"Fellini’s Interpretation of Petronius’s Opus Magnum: “Dinner at Trimalchio’s” in the Movie and in Reality." IvyPanda, 3 July 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/fellinis-interpretation-of-petroniuss-opus-magnum-dinner-at-trimalchios-in-the-movie-and-in-reality/.

1. IvyPanda. "Fellini’s Interpretation of Petronius’s Opus Magnum: “Dinner at Trimalchio’s” in the Movie and in Reality." July 3, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/fellinis-interpretation-of-petroniuss-opus-magnum-dinner-at-trimalchios-in-the-movie-and-in-reality/.


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IvyPanda. "Fellini’s Interpretation of Petronius’s Opus Magnum: “Dinner at Trimalchio’s” in the Movie and in Reality." July 3, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/fellinis-interpretation-of-petroniuss-opus-magnum-dinner-at-trimalchios-in-the-movie-and-in-reality/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Fellini’s Interpretation of Petronius’s Opus Magnum: “Dinner at Trimalchio’s” in the Movie and in Reality." July 3, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/fellinis-interpretation-of-petroniuss-opus-magnum-dinner-at-trimalchios-in-the-movie-and-in-reality/.

References

IvyPanda. (2019) 'Fellini’s Interpretation of Petronius’s Opus Magnum: “Dinner at Trimalchio’s” in the Movie and in Reality'. 3 July.

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