Introduction

 

 

      “I think of you often, dear friend, and after all that has happened, it is the least I can do. I’m still a bit shaken and confused, and of all this extraordinary and mysterious experience, your image is the most concrete, the most relaxing, the most solar.”

     -A letter from Federico Fellini to Christina Engelhardt, Nov. 6, 1984

 

     It’s time.

 

     Over the last three decades, I have formed my own theories on what happened. I’ve pondered why I was involved in such an incredible experience and found some answers through my fascination with and studies of spirituality, theology, philosophy and the everlasting question “What else is out there?” My thoughts have also been impacted by what’s followed in the years after this bizarre, fantastical and truly amazing series of events. For the most part, though, it’s still elusive. It still leaves a myriad of unanswered questions, questions I still seek answers to even as I venture forth to write this book.

 

     This is a tale of adventure and intrigue. It is at times unbelievable, at times terrifying, at times inspiring. It is all supernatural. It is a wild, action-packed journey deep into the unknown yet somehow, surprisingly familiar. It is a story of love, chaos and growth. It is a calling to once again remind us that there is so much more beyond this plane of existence, so much more to see and experience if we just open our eyes, hearts and souls. And if we are chosen. This story is deeply personal and necessary for me to share. I also believe this story is important.

 

     As you will see from my writing, personal letters, documents, past interviews, photos and more…what happened to me, to us, more than thirty years ago and in the years that followed is all completely true. I was part of a mystical experience with the legendary Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini that would change not only how we would look at our existence as a whole but would also impact, intrigue and haunt us for the rest of our lives. It was foreseen that I would connect with this ethereal artist and go on an adventure. It was a prophecy given to me at another time and place. I was with Federico at a crucial point in his life, a time that saw his genius questioned, his artistic drive faltering and his need for a muse to rekindle his spirit and sense of purpose. We connected on our own unique level and I was an instrument, a healing presence by his side when the unbelievable occurred. I was part of his new life quest just as our experience together formed a new sense of purpose for myself. I was given a designation, a mission, a purpose beyond my own. I, like Federico Fellini, heard The Voice.

 

     But why me?

 

     Well, as you’ll soon see…of course, me.

 

     I have always been humbly open to the possibilities of something more. I am a devotee of the clairvoyant who comes from a bloodline of psychic mediums. I developed that gift at an early age and it fascinated me all my life. I’ve always believed in something bigger watching over me and guiding me, a God Source of some kind. In my quest to understand more about that, I have also spent the better part of my life both honing my skills as a clairvoyant and studying ancient beliefs, sorcery, magic and ideologies of the world.  I’ve studied Tarot, numerology, astrology, energy fields, I Ching, Ruins, Taoism and the other Eastern culture philosophies to further my understanding of the principles of knowledge. I’ve looked up to the ancient master teachers, including Jesus, Moses, Lao Tzu, Buddha and Confucius, and I’ve hungered for theology in all forms.

 

     In the early eighties, when this story begins, I was an international model and actress, a recent transplant to L.A. from New York, who had moved based on a prediction that something more was awaiting me. I had traveled, experienced career success and made some high profile friends among the celebrity elite. Yet, I was at a crossroads, watching for a sign to tell me where my life was going to take me next.

 

     I had no idea it would be The Yucatan. Nor did I know how that short but explosive trip would trigger a series of events that would affect the rest of my life.

 

     Neither did “il Maestro.” Yet, after decades of dabbling in the supernatural and building an award-winning and critically acclaimed legacy based on bringing his mystical visions to the masses, this particular experience would forever change Fellini…inspiring him, haunting him, frustrating him and even humbling him.

 

     As our story begins, Fellini has reached an artistic crossroads. His shared fantasies have awed audiences in Italy and around the world for years. Works like I Vitelloni, The Nights of Cabiria, 8 ½,  La Strada, La Dolce Vita, Satyricon, Juliet of the Spirits, Roma, Amarcord and so many more earned him his place among the titans of the craft and the visionaries of a generation. He is in a time where every director cites his work as an influence and all strive to not just be like him, but to BE him. He is the epitome of cinema, a living example to show why and how artists create art. His wildly exotic and luscious magic carpet ride adventures have cemented their places in eternity as contributions to not just art, but explorations of religion, freedom, fear, love, desire and spirit. As I got to know Fellini, the man and the visionary, I quickly realized one ever-lasting truth about his films: He lived so he could dream and he dreamed so he could make films. He made these films so he could reveal one little truth and one little lie about humanity.

 

     To say he was touched by something more would be an understatement. When we see what’s produced by the great artists of any generation, part of what awes us is not just the talent and the creativity but the source of where this creativity, this art, this statement of worldly relevance comes from. Is it God? The gods? Or maybe it’s an untapped part of the human brain that can only be accessed by a select, lucky few. Maybe it’s both. The ancient Greeks, after all, believed inspiration would send artists into “furor poeticus.” This translates to something like “the divine frenzy,” where the artist would temporarily give up his mind to make room for the gods or goddesses to come through. For Christians, there’s a belief that artistic inspiration comes from within our souls, tapped and guided by the Holy Spirit. Some believe it comes from past experience, from the artist’s own journey and influential upbringing; just as Fellini’s experiences during World War II and watching the circus and its uniquely outlandish characters come to town affected his perspective and his art. Some believe it comes from inherent generational struggles, feats and accomplishments. Others believe inspiration comes from a rare connection with nature and seeing what most cannot in the world around us. Still others believe inspiration comes from worlds, planes, realities beyond our own…and ultimately, that’s where our story takes us.

 

     As I became more involved with Fellini, I saw firsthand how his inspiration came from all of these sources. Fellini was not just open to multiple muses, he hungered for them, seeking them out wherever he could, even within the paranormal. He was not the first artist to act on counsel from unconventional sources, but he was perhaps the most open to it, at least of any recent generation. He was always searching, a Puppet Master pulling at the strings of reality and as you’ll soon see, his search took him to some fascinating places.

 

     Yet, in the early eighties, on the eve of his next great adventure, he was lost, even in the safety of his dreams. He found himself doing international commercials to earn a paycheck, waiting for the inspiration that now seemed to elude him and searching desperately for a producer that would be patient enough to look past his temperamental working reputation and help him bring his visions to the screen. Needless to say, il Maestro had never felt so tired and confused in his life. After a short string of failed launches, Fellini knew he had to redefine himself and he was trying desperately to figure out how. The muse, whatever the source, had touched him so easily before and now this visionary genius felt abandoned. While revered as a deity, on the surface, Fellini was elusive, an enigma to even those who knew him and celebrated him. But as I got closer to him, I saw vulnerability under the tough exterior and in those moments he opened himself up, seeking help from something greater.

 

     That, I believe, is why The Voice came to him just before that fateful trip to Tulum. This is why Fellini, a few members of his inner circle and I were able to gain access to…well, you decide.

 

     This story is about two very different people who meet and experience something extraordinary together that shapes the rest of their lives. Fellini and I have a meeting of fate’s design in L.A. and soon find ourselves in Tulum, in the heart of the Yucatan, trying to track down the famous self-proclaimed shaman Carlos Castaneda. Along the way, we open a portal, giving in to The Voice, who quickly takes control of us, our relationship and our path. After the trip, as we both try to make sense of what’s happening to us, we know only that we are in this together. We have been told as much. The trip and this new presence in our lives lead to more Fellini projects (in a way). It also leads to frustration, confusion and even terror as we continue to disappoint and anger The Voice, who constantly reminds us of the importance of our work.

 

     All the while, as we work to appease its commands and we bear witness to its power, we seek desperately for an understanding of what exactly is happening. Could this be an elaborate and prolonged prank? Is this all being imagined, fueled by our choices, moods and experiences at the time? Or is The Voice truly what it tells us in its vague, cryptic messages? Is it in fact something bigger, something not of this world or dimension? The questions of “Who?” and “Why?” drive us close to insanity…and yet, we feel it chose us for a reason. That struggle of what to believe and how to work with our new circumstances while trying to truly judge their importance would define the next several years of our lives. They are questions that would haunt Fellini until his death. They would cause me to go on a decades-long journey, a metaphysical muse in a great search to seek understanding, including trips back to the Yucatan where it all began.

 

     Towards the Moon with Fellini chronicles my unique relationship with Federico and our bizarre experience together in the later stages of his life. My time with Fellini was joyful. I spent a good portion of nine years very close to him, including a year following him with a camera that I eventually turned into an award-winning documentary with the same title of this book. From our first meeting on, we were a large part of each other’s lives. Even with all of his accomplishments, he admired and appreciated me as a person. He showed me off to everyone, taking me everywhere, introducing me as family. Despite our deep love for each other, we never had a physical relationship…partially because we were told by The Voice not to cross that line. Instead, I served as a muse, a friend and his psychic consultant and he became a strong father figure. We were above all else, partners in an adventure that I will now share with you, leaving room for you to form your own thoughts on what exactly happened and why.

 

     It’s important for me to say again that everything you find in the pages of this book happened. This is not based on a true story. This IS a true story. Some of what you read you will find hard to believe. Now, after all this time, I still find some of it hard to believe. This is a supernatural story that I happened to share with a legendary artist. Once you see the details of that story, you will find yourself mystified.

 

     I can see already that the main question I’ll get from this is, “Why did it take you so long to write?” There are many, many, many reasons. One was out of fear, which, once you meet The Voice, you’ll understand why. Another reason was the trouble I had processing the experience, especially after I lost my partner. I’ve also spent a good part of the past twenty years touring and promoting my film, and trying to form a life for myself as a business woman and mother, while also examining what exactly happened. I have been re-tracing my steps, seeking clarity and understanding of the whole experience in terms of what it meant at the time and what it means now. As for the question of, “Why now?” this book is part of that process and the timing just feels right. Honestly, the story is simply too compelling to keep to myself any longer.

 

     Yes, it’s time.

 

     More than anything, it is my hope that you can simply enjoy this fascinating tale of the impossible and see that there truly is more out there. I want you to enjoy this story of a defining moment for one of the most dynamic, fascinating and influential personalities in the history of the film industry told through the eyes of one of his closest confidants. I’m writing this book as part memoir, part mystery and part examination of the beliefs we hold about higher powers, what else is out there, who we are and where our inspiration truly comes from.

 

     Many authors don’t write their Introduction until after they are done with the book, but I’m doing mine first as a sort of mission statement, a way to frame what I’m about to share and more importantly, why. I am writing this first as a commitment to myself to finally go forward and do this, to share this incredible story once and for all. While Fellini is gone, I now have you along with me as I take this step forward. Thank you for wanting to share this adventure with me.

 

     Now, grab my hand and let me take you towards the moon with Fellini.

Christina Engelhardt * christinaengelhardt@yahoo.com

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