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Orchestra Rehearsal
(Prova d’orchestra)

Directed by Federico Fellini.
With Balduin Baas, Clara Colosimo, Elizabeth Labi.
Italy/West Germany, 1979, DCP, color, 70 min.
Italian and German with English subtitles.

Uncharacteristic of Fellini’s work in its single location, more or less real-time narrative, and compressed length, Orchestra Rehearsal is nonetheless an expansive film in terms of the scope of its ideas, contemplating broad questions facing Italian society in the 1970s through the testimonials of a diverse group of musicians and their strict, old-school conductor (Balduin Baas). Framed as the production of a television documentary, albeit one in which Fellini never makes the fictional crew and its equipment visible, the film observes the gradual breakdown of order within the auditorium as the orchestra’s union officials pressure the conductor to make financial concessions toward his musicians, who he believes should simply perform their roles for the greater good of the art. In navigating this labor struggle, Fellini neglects to choose sides, instead spotlighting the eccentric humanity of his multifaceted ensemble, who are by turns blissfully apolitical in their musicianship and filled with the youthful vigor of activism. At once a celebration of art’s cathartic power and a recognition of its diminutive stature in an increasingly fraught political landscape, Orchestra Rehearsal builds to a suitably ambivalent conclusion that ranks among Fellini’s most evocative.

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