In a film as surrealistic as Frederico Fellini's "8 1/2," a drama rich with humor, or possibly a comedy steeped in drama, identifying a single scene or passage to illustrate the director's use of humor and whimsy is a bit of a challenge. "8 1/2" is filled with fascinating and occasionally disturbing images, and the viewer is sometimes uncertain he or she is observing an actual scene that is taking place as part of the story, or has been invited into the director's subconscious mind for a peak at the absurdity that defined Fellini's career. "8 1/2," of course, is the autobiographical depiction of Fellini's own struggle to continue to create while expectations weigh on him like a boulder courtesy of actors seeking work, fans anxiously awaiting his next miracle, and studio representatives clamoring for accountability. The financial pressures represented by the omniscient producer, combined with constant lobbying by actors with whom he has worked in the past for roles in his new, undefined project, have reduced the character, Guido Anselmi, the role based upon Fellini, to a barely functioning artist, consumed more with sex and partying than with confronting the demons that haunt him -- mainly, his failure to come up with a great new idea for this next film.
With all of that in mind, perhaps the best example of whimsy in support of his narrative is Fellini's climactic finale, in which the science fiction set has had constructed on the beach forms the basis for the kind of surrealism we've come to expect from this director. The image of Guido, surrounded by paparazzi, actors, the producer, and myriad others all parading around the huge rocket that forms the center of the scene for the still-to-be-determined film while musicians play and chaos ensues probably constitutes as fine an example of wit and whimsey as one can imagine. Fellini's finale is a veritable cornucopia of bizarre images that end with the sound of gunshot and the apparent suicide of Guido, which turns out not to have occurred (again, we have been inside the director's mind and been exposed to the suggestion that all of his troubles can disappear instantaneously). Then, suddenly, the beach is quiet and deserted, with only isolated images of women remaining that may or not actually exist.
Fellini's "8 1/2" is a drama; it is a very heartfelt depiction of an artist facing his own creative mortality. His film is so filled with absurdity, however, that one can mistaken for believing "8 1/2" is a comedy. As noted, however, if one scene best illustrates his use of humor, it is the scene on the beach with the massive phallic symbol surrounded by scaffolding -- perhaps a symbol of the artifice required to continue on