Music and Meaning in Fellini's "La Strada"
Nino Rota composed music for dozens of directors, including Luchino Visconti, Mario Monicelli, Luigi Comencini, Lina Wertmüller, Francis Ford Coppola and Franco Zeffirelli, and yet his music seems more profound in Fellini’s hands. Could it be that Rota composed better music for Fellini? Probably not -- in fact if one were to separate the music from the context of the visual image Rota’s compositions for the first two “Godfather” films would be artistically superior to anything that he composed for Fellini. The beauty of Rota’s compositions for Fellini lies not the music, but rather the magical encounter between sound and image. The English language version of Federico Fellini’s La strada offers an objective tool for demonstrating Fellini’s brilliance in the editing of Rota’s music. Fellini had no control over the English audio track, which was completely re-edited under the supervision of Carol and Peter Riethof at Titra Sound Studios in New York. The English language version, although identical to the Italian visual track, re-edited all sound in the film: dialogue, ambient sound, and music. There are dozens of instances in which the newer audio track alters or “corrects” the Italian version, and these changes, which tend to follow more conventional uses of sound, offer fascinating contrasts to Fellini’s sound editing. Some of the differences between the two versions include: 1. lower volume of music relative to dialogue in the English version; 2. new musical selections and different editing of music in many scenes; 3. different ambient sound in some scenes, as well as changes in the editing of ambient sound; 4. elimination of some dialogue. A comparison of the editing of sound in these two versions of La strada will reveal the fundamental role of music in Fellini’s films.
Keywords: Fellini, Italian Cinema, Music
Thomas Van Order
Assistant Professor, Italian Department, Middlebury College