And the Ship Sails On  (1983)

 

Director:  Federico Fellini

Starring:  Freddie Jones (Orlando), Barbara Jefford (Ildebranda Cuffari), Victor Poletti (Aureliano Fuciletto); Peter Cellier (Sir Reginald J. Dongby), Elisa Mainardi (Teresa Valegnani), Norma West (Lady Violet Dongby Albertini), Paolo Paoloni (Il Maestro Albertini), Sarah-Jane Varley (Dorotea), Fiorenzo Serra (Il Granduca), Pina Bausch (La Principessa Lherimia), Pasquale Zito (Il Conte di Bassano), Linda Polan (Ines Ruffo Saltini), Philip Locke (Il Primo Ministro), Jonathan Cecil (Ricotin), Maurice Barrier (Ziloev).

Serbian war refugees

 

 

"In July 1914 a luxury liner leaves Italy with the ashes of the famous opera singer Tetua. The boat is filled with her friends, opera singers, actors and all kinds of exotic people. Life is sweet the first days, but on the third day the captain has to save a a large number of Serbian refugees from the sea, refugees who had escaped the first tremors of WWI."  (Source:  www.amazon.com)

Good movie.  It starts in black and white and in silence, but soon turns to color and sound.  It is July of 1914.  Very wealthy passengers arrive and get on board the luxury liner docked at the pier.  A hearse arrives bringing the ashes of Edmea Tetua, greatest singer of all times, to the ship.  Everyone looks so resplendent, in an overdressed sort of way.  They dine so elegantly complete with an orchestra.  The passengers come from the worlds of the arts, show business, conductors, a comic, superintendents of La Scala at Milan, opera singers, two superintendents of the Vienna opera, a feared newspaper columnist, etc.  Also on board is the Grand Duke of Herzog and his blind sister Herimia who is having a secret affair with Count von Huppenback.   They are all here for the spreading of the ashes of Ms. Tetua around the Island of Erimo, where she was born.

The narrator is the pleasant journalist Orlando on assignment on the ship.  He interviews the Grand Duke but doesn't learn much.  The Grand Duke's answer to what he thinks about the international situation is that we are all sitting at the mouth of a volcano. 

On the third night out things start going wrong.  The up-scale passengers find a group of Serbian refugees on board, looking very non-wealthy.  It appears that the Austrian Arch Duke and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo and that Austria has declared war on Serbia.  The refugees were rescued from the sea by the crew during the night.  They are mostly shepherds, peasant, gypsies and some students. 

The artists are upset about the new passengers: "horrible people"; "Serb anarchists"; "professional assassins" who have put the Grand Duke's life in jeopardy.  They have those Serbs bold enough to who have wandered into the fancy ship bar thrown out.  One wealthy woman starts hiding her jewels in her cabin.

But when the Serbs start to dance and sing on deck, the artists find themselves drawn to their world.  Some even go on deck to dance with them.  (Prejudice is one thing, but damn good music and dance is just plain exhilarating.)

A bigger problem, however, arises.  An Austro-Hungarian battleship shows up and demands that the captain of the luxury liner give up the Serbians to them. 

Will the liner Captain surrender the Serbs to the Austrians?  And, if not, will the Austrians use force?

 

Good movie.  It was much better than I thought it would be, being no lover of Fellini.  I liked the portrayal of the prejudice over the class differences and also prejudice against the people of a different ethnic origin.  It was also interesting to see how Fellini did a sea story all in a studio.  Many times, the artificiality of it all is plain, but it's entertaining anyway. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

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