I don’t like the idea of “understanding” a film. I don’t believe that rational understanding is an essential element in the reception of any work of art. Either a film has something to say to you or it hasn’t. If you are moved by it, you don’t need it explained to you. If not, no explanation can make you moved by it.
“No explanation can make you moved by it”
The 16 yr old NME reader in me says: “Mr Fellini, stop talking shite.”
That was my reaction, too, but this kind of sentiment gets expressed so often, I guess it must accurately describe some people’s interaction with art? IDK, just phenomenologically I have a hard time imagining what it would be like to have a response to art that wasn’t mediated by interpretation (though “rational understanding” is probably doing a lot of work in that quote which could do with being unpacked).
So long as art declines to pass as cognition and is thus separated from practice, social practice tolerates it as it tolerates pleasure. But the Sirens’ song has not yet been rendered powerless by reduction to the condition of art….
[Civilization’s] road was that of obedience and labor, over which fulfillment shines forth perpetually-but only as illusive appearance, as devitalized beauty. The mind of Odysseus, inimical both to his own death and to his own happiness, is aware of this. He knows only two possible ways to escape. One of them he prescribes for his men. He plugs their ears with wax, and they must row with all their strength. Whoever would survive must not hear the temptation of that which is unrepeatable, and he is able to survive only by being unable to hear it. Society has always made provision for that. The laborers must be fresh and concentrate as they look ahead, and must ignore whatever lies to one side. They must doggedly sublimate in additional effort the drive that impels to diversion. And so they become practical. The other possibility Odysseus, the seigneur who allows the others to labor for themselves, reserves to himself. He listens, but while bound impotently to the mast; the greater the temptation the more he has his bonds tightened - just as later the burghers would deny themselves happiness all the more doggedly as it drew closer to them with the growth of their own power. What Odysseus hears is without consequence for him; he is able only to nod his head as a sign to be set free from his bonds; but it is too late; his men, who do not listen, know only the song’s danger but nothing of its beauty, and leave him at the mast in order to save him and themselves. They reproduce the oppressor’s life together with their own, and the oppressor is no longer able to escape his social role. The bonds with which he has irremediably tied himself to practice, also keep the Sirens away from practice: their temptation is neutralized and becomes a mere object of contemplation - becomes art. The prisoner is present at a concert, an inactive eavesdropper like later concertgoers, and his spirited call for liberation fades like applause.
― Horkheimer and Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment (32-4)