Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Juliet of the Spirits (1965, It.)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Juliet of the Spirits (1965, It./W.Germ/Fr.) (aka Giulietta Degli Spiriti)

Italian director Federico Fellini's first feature-length color film - a surrealistic, garish Italian-French fantasy comedy-drama about marriage, starred his own wife Giulietta Masina as the title character of Juliet. The visionary and over-indulgent film symbolically conveyed or reflected Fellini's own personal life and specifically his marriage to his wife.

There were three significant dreamy segments throughout the film, with striking images or visions, that provided meaning for Juliet's main life issues and problems:

At the beach next to the ocean, a man pulled a rope attached to a barge (with a freakish assortment of passengers aboard) - Juliet could only struggle but was unable to pull the rope and bring the boat out of the water to the shore
Juliet remembered how her infatuated grandfather (Lou Gilbert) deserted his family and took off with a ballerina named Fanny (Sandra Milo) he met at the circus; they both boarded a single-engine plane bound for another country; then, he reappeared very happy two years later, but was shunned and ostracized by his family for his disobedience in running off; Juliet's mother didn't allow him in the house; the Bishop said he was in league with the Devil
Juliet had a flashback of participating in a church play or pageant - playing the role of a Christian martyr who was burned for refusing to renounce her faith; in the audience, her grandfather refused to see her sacrificed and set her free

Middle-aged, frumpy, understated, naive, chain-smoking and neglected wife Juliet Boldrini (Giulietta Masina) with a short haircut bob, was celebrating her marriage of 15 years to her businessman-husband, Giorgio (Mario Pisu) - he was her "first love." In the opening scene, although Juliet had planned an intimate romantic dinner to celebrate, her husband threw a surprise anniversary party and had invited lots of weird spiritualists and psychic seers, including Genius (Eugenio Mastropietro) and his lover/assistant Valentina (Valentina Cortese). During the party, a clairvoyant held a seance - and Juliet heard otherworldly voices from the other side, and promptly fainted. For the remainder of the film, a spirit named Iris (Sandra Milo) became Juliet's guide in the form of a whisper.

Psychic Seers: Genius and Valentina

Seance During Anniversary Party

Guru Pijma (Valeska Gert)
Juliet's Spiritualist Helpers

At the beach the next day, the superstitious and "very gifted" Juliet ("who sees magic everywhere") experienced fanciful and surreal images, elaborated upon by her own subconscious. She was uncertain as to why her boring life and marriage weren't going well, why she didn't feel close to her husband, or why she had fanciful hallucinations.

Juliet began to suspect that her husband of 15 years was a philanderer. She overheard him in his sleep mentioning a woman's name - Gabriella Olsen - a 24 year-old fashion model mistress with whom he was actually committing adultery, although he denied it ("I don't know any Gabriella"). A few days later, upon the urging of Valentina, Juliet sought the advice of another spiritual guide or mystic (described as "a fabulous clairvoyant. A man-woman with the secrets of both sexes!") - ancient wiseman or guru Pijma (72-year old lesbian androgyne Valeska Gert), who offered his services at the Plaza Hotel.

Channeling through a female medium, Pijma told Juliet that it was her fault that she was experiencing marital problems and discord: "Love is a religion, Juliet. Your husband is your god. You are the priestess of this cult. Your spirit must burn up like this incense, go up in smoke on the altar of your loving body....Why don't you learn to please your husband more?" It was suggested to her that she must follow the approach of the sex trade in order to be happy: "Women want to be treated like sirens, but they don't know the trade." Juliet reacted: "Love is a trade?...A prostitute then - great advice!"

She also sought help from a private detective and psychiatrist Dr. Valli in order to confirm her suspicions. They bragged about their investigative services: "In one week, you'll know everything your husband does during the day. Our zoom lenses makes secrecy an outdated concept. Doors and walls mean nothing to us. We'll show you your husband as you've never known him. Come with us, you'll participate in his most secretive moments. You'll penetrate those shadowy areas you've never been able to enter. Are you really sure you want to know?" Juliet replied:

"Yes. I want to know. It's within my rights, because I don't know who he is anymore. What's mine, what I mean to him. I need to know what he thinks, what he gets up to. I want to know everything about him."

Later, they had film and photographic evidence of Giogio's repeated dalliances with the model Gabriella, at a cost of 100,000 lira charged for expenses. She viewed the evidence with tears in her eyes.

Juliet also consulted with her polar opposite - her hedonistic, glamorous, sensual, and buxom blonde party-girl neighbor Suzy (Sandra Milo, allegedly Fellini's own mistress) wrapped in white fur with a choker - ostensibly a high-class prostitute. When Juliet entered Suzy's ornate mansion, she was confronted with many worshippers or sexualized guests, including a suicidal Arlette in a back bedroom, described by Suzy as "unlucky in love." Juliet remembered how she also had a friend named Laura, who suicidally died at the age of 15 by drowning ("She killed herself for love").

Suzy showed off her bordello-styled, ceiling-mirrored bedroom: ("Sometimes you think there's another couple"). Naked, she demonstrated a chute-slide next to her bed that led down to a nearby underground, giant heated pool or bath ("Come and join me, the water's hot. It's another one of my ideas. We slide in after we make love"). In the wooded garden area surrounding the mansion, Suzy also showed Juliet her secret tree-top house (or pleasure dome). There was also a kettle-shaped wicker basket for entry of herself and lovers with an electric pulley-hoist mechanism. She told Juliet about its purpose: "I eat and dance and play." She also regularly sunbathed nude up there: "It's much better up there than on the beach."

Suzy's Boudoir Chute to Underground Heated Bath/Pool

Suzy's Wicker Basket Elevator to Tree-Top House

After viewing the detective's evidence about her husband (including videos of their secret rendezvous), Juliet returned alone for an evening's party at Suzy's place. The free-spirited, promiscuous temptress Suzy boasted about her parties: "We simulate the atmosphere of a brothel." She offered Juliet an option to her imprisoning marriage - a costumed orgy of sexual passion and temptation with her studly, yet androgynous, part-Arab godson/nephew, a boy-toy, but Juliet became feverish and nervous. The wronged Juliet denied herself the pleasures of the flesh. Terrorized, she had a fleeting glimpse of an image from the spirit world and of her past - a frightening and fiery view of being martyred in a school play.

Juliet fled back to her own villa to await her husband's arrival. She began to hear voices advising her with contradictory prescriptions: "Get revenge." "Forgive."..."Make yourself beautiful." "Life is a sacrifice." "Be more feminine. We'll teach you. You're no good." She became confused about what to do, and which way to go in life. A psychodramatist (Anne Francine) lectured about how to deal with her troubled marriage: "I think I know what's tormenting you and I might be able to help. You identify too much with your problem, that's your error." She added: "This is the great and simple secret you must learn - Be yourself, spontaneously. Don't fight your passions and desires." She continued by explaining the real reason for Juliet's fears:

  • "You're afraid of being alone, of being abandoned."
  • "You're afraid your husband will leave you."
  • "The truth is, that's exactly what you want."
  • "You desire with all your might to be left alone. You want your husband to go....Without Giorgio, you begin to breathe, to live, to be yourself."
  • "You think you're afraid. Truth is, you're scared of one thing. Of being happy."

Juliet also went to the home of Giorgio's mistress in hopes to confront her, but was unable to. She returned home and found her husband leaving for a trip to Milan. She sat quietly and solitarily in her house - haunted by the voice of her dead friend Laura, urging her to kill herself: "Everything's grey here, nothing moves, it's all silent. Come with me. A long sleep without suffering anymore." She imaginatively began to hallucinate images, demons and voices from her past, that had urged her with endless advice. Juliet was at a crossroads in her life - what should she do? Kill herself, live on as usual, or leave her cheating husband. She sought help from her icy and demanding mother (Catarina Boratto) - seen as a ghostly apparition. Juliet confronted her mother: "You don't frighten me anymore."

Through self-discovery and self-realization and an examination of her own emptiness by the film's ambiguous ending, however, Juliet found emancipation, freedom and independence (or interpreted differently, loneliness and abandonment). She freed herself from her fiery martyrdom (the church pageant), let go and said goodbye to her past, and departed from her home - she opened her front gate and walked off toward the nearby woods.

Ambiguous Ending: Juliet Walking Through Front Gate and Off Into the Woods

Juliet (Giulietta Masina, Fellini's Wife)

Juliet's Neglectful Husband Giorgio (Mario Pisu)

During Sleep, Juliet's Husband Spoke the Name: "Gabriella"

Juliet's Detective

Juliet's Psychologist Dr. Valli

Suzy (Sandra Milo) - Juliet's Next-Door Neighbor

At Suzy's Place - Suicidal Arlette

Suzy in Her Ceiling-Mirrored Bedroom

Attending a Party/Orgy at Suzy's Place

Suzy's Cleavage

Suzy's Offer of a Boy-Toy in Her Bedroom to Juliet

Psychodramatist Offering Juliet Advice

Juliet Sitting in Her Empty House - Contemplating Suicide

Asking For Help From Her Ghostly Mother

Juliet Freeing Herself From Her Own Fiery Martyrdom


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