Friday, 20 January 2012


Images of the stricken cruise liner Costa Concordia fill media outlets. The most striking ones are at night when the behemoth ship is lit up like a great, wounded alien-starship. 

These are pictures we have seen before in films, most notably in Frederico Fellini's Amarcord. 

Fellini gives us images of a great cruise liner passing the shore and the longing looks on the faces of locals as they pay homage to the hotel on waves, where a life of material ease and comfort, the attendance of a serving class and the removal of all worry, woe and need, are guaranteed.

The great delusion offered by cruise liners as they get bigger and bigger is that you are cocooned and privileged. That you are special. And safe.

All it takes is a hefty whack of your money.

The 114,500-tonne Costa Concordia  hits a sandbar as passengers sit down to dinner, off the tiny Tuscan island of Giglio (42 degrees North, 10 degrees East). Dozens are injured, as many as eleven people are killed and up to 21 people are unaccounted for, from among the more than 4, 000 people on board.

The folly of grandeur, with the attendant loss of any sense of human scale, as the pressure to be bigger and to be seen (to be bigger), comes to bear. Senior management on the ship abandon it. Islanders and coast guard personnel perform heroics. All of the joy and heart-break of human life is present.
In the film Amarcord, the images of the ship going by are among the most heart-breaking. They are nostalgic and arresting. They invite us to remember moments when we have longed for something and the almost delicious pain such longing, and the memory of it, evoke.

In Glandore Harbour, (51 degrees North, 9 degrees West), the bodies of five Irish and Egyptian fishing crew swim with the fishes they sought. What are Egyptians doing on an Irish fishing vessel?

Trying their nets for a decent whack of money.

The people in the boats view Fellini's great liner sail by. Longing. The Egyptians trawl far away from home. Longing. And on board the Costa Concordia, the people who saved hard to meet their longing for grandeur, safety and 'the pleasures of the rich',  voyage into tragedy. Longing.

Cruise liner lit up and going by 
Amarcord – the trailer

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