In Fellini’s quirky, imaginative fable, a motley crew of European aristocrats (and a lovesick rhinoceros!) board a luxurious ocean liner on the eve of World War I to scatter the ashes of a beloved diva. Fabricated entirely in Rome’s famed Cinecittà studios, And the Ship Sails On (E la nave va) reaches spectacular new visual heights with its stylized re-creation of a decadent bygone era. Criterion is proud to present this rarely-seen gem in an exclusive widescreen transfer with new English subtitles.
Federico Fellini’s 1984 And the Ship Sails On is one of the late master’s most fanciful projects, while simultaneously striking one of the most somber notes in the director’s filmography. The year is 1914, the eve of World War I and the coming destruction of Europe’s old, cultured aristocracy, an elite class mourned in many a film from Renoir’s The Grand Illusion to Truffaut’s The Green Room. A luxury liner sets sail from Italy, full of artists, a royal entourage, and one rhinoceros. The point of the voyage is to scatter the ashes of a world-famous diva, but the exotic passengers–blithely unaware of the imminent conflict–have many, more private intrigues going on behind closed doors. Still, it is the self-containment and formality of these travelers, at once absurd and moving, that sticks with the viewer: the way the many singers, musicians, and conductors (and one plump archduke) seem aware, in public, of embodying a privileged history. Fellini films all the action aboard an impressively lush and blatantly artificial set, with a painted sky, paper moon, and cellophane sea, all underscoring the dreamy, precious nature of this adventure. The camera itself becomes a kind of character via a determined journalist (Freddie Jones) who speaks to us directly, drawing the film into vaguely obscene disruptions of an otherwise serene formalism.