Posted on Tuesday, June 15th, 2021 by
Luca, the latest film from Pixar, is a rollicking, sun-dappled adventure set in a small seaside Italian town. Like The Little Mermaid, the film follows a young sea dweller who discovers what it’s like to live on the surface world and yearns for freedom. The only problem is that small seaside town’s residents hate and fear sea monsters – kind of like how the residents of Berk hate and fear dragons in How to Train Your Dragon. But those earlier animation touchstones are far from the only projects that inspired Luca – director Enrico Casarosa also took inspiration from the films of famed Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini.
I spoke with Casarosa about the Fellini movies that inspired Luca, including 8 1/2 and I Vitelloni.
Federico Fellini, whose films include La Dolce Vita, 8 1/2, La Strada, Nights of Cabiria, and more, is widely considered to be one of the greatest directors of all time. His movies served an important function in cinematic history: they served as a bridge from the Italian neorealist movement’s initial focus on how Italian society had been impacted by the fallout from World War II to a more intimate look at how individuals were affected.
When we were talking about the movies that inspired Luca, Casarosa specifically mentioned I Vitelloni, Fellini’s 1953 feature about a group of young men in a small seaside town who feel stuck and yearn to break free. There are obvious thematic parallels there to Luca, but it turns out Casarosa got far more granular with the I Vitelloni shout-outs in his film.
“You will see we used the same train design,” he explained, referencing a key location in both movies. “We wanted to make a little homage to it, so that was really, really fun. But yeah, there’s a cinematic scene in that movie that blows me away every time where you see a camera passing in everybody’s bedroom at the end. Amazing. That is one of my favorite Fellini directing choices. And yeah, that leaving your hometown [feeling] was also something that we really loved, too.”
I’ve queued up the video above to the scene Casarosa mentioned – note how the camera moves through the rooms of the protagonist’s friends as if the train is physically passing through those spaces.
When I asked if there were any other aspects of Fellini’s filmmaking style that Casarosa wanted to incorporate in Luca, he cited 8 1/2, one of the most beloved films of all time.
“Yeah, I think the way that he loves to bring in the dream world,” he answered, referencing the daydream sequences in Luca in which the title character becomes engulfed in otherworldly environments. he continued:
“We had a similar – maybe less dreams, but when I think of 8 1/2 and the wonderful breaks into [Marcello Mastroianni’s character’s] dreams, we had daydreaming. Not exactly dreams, but still. Because we needed to get into this kid’s head a little, and when you tell a story about an introvert – we had different versions, and sometimes he was very quiet and it was a little bit hard to understand him. So probably subconsciously, because I didn’t think about it at the time, but I love 8 1/2 so much, and there are a similar few scenes that almost give you a spine of what’s in [Luca’s] head. So I do love that there’s a little bit of a thread there.”
We’ll have much more with Casarosa in the coming days, so stay tuned. Luca arrives on Disney+ on June 18, 2021.
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