The New Patron Saint of Artistic Impediment

Molte grazie Signor Contini. You truly are the santo of musicians, writers, and artists everywhere when times are difficult.

The musical Nine introduces us to the famous Guido Contini, a philandering Italian film director who is rapidly losing control over his life and creativity. He is expected to deliver the masterpiece of a lifetime, but instead struggles with insecurities and a lack of inspiration leaving his screenplay non-existent, the producer exasperated, and the costume designer making clothes just for the sake of it. Nothing holds together or makes sense as Guido wanders aimlessly through a labyrinth of regrets and old memories. When he is able to momentarily escape those vicious demons, the director is caught frozen in the headlights of an intimidatingly colossal task ahead of him, unable to move for hell or high water. Many of those engaged in the creative arts will readily sympathise with this: the vision is there, whirling around your head bursting to get out onto the sheet of paper in front of you. At times the ideas will flow freely, and make the transition effortlessly from mind to pen to paper like a Ferrari swiftly driving down the Amalfi Coast. Sometimes though, one will encounter instead the stop-start, splurting of an uninspired mind more akin to a rusty Fiat Cinquecento stuck in heavy traffic down the Via dei Fori Imperiali. Guido attempts to procrastinate the problem away, but this is as useful to the director as overcooked torterllini – such time-wasting in our own lives solves the problem equally as badly.

After much in the way of trials and tribulations, Guido is quite bluntly told that “making movies wasn’t your problem, you were the problem.” The blockage becomes clear, and Guido’s nine year-old self, full of inspiration and with a clear mind untainted by worries of women and work, love and life, takes control of the set as he regains his passion and inspiration once more.

Writer’s block can be an awful affliction on any artist, but the story of Guido Contini shows us that despite the seemingly indomitable wall one might be faced with, it is possible to eventually break through if we can examine the anxieties which built the damned thing so high in the first place.

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