Fellini’s Casanova is noted for its symbolic, highly stylised mise en scène and the casting of Donald Sutherland in the lead role.
By using a range of visual effects, Fellini attempted to depict Casanova as a debauched figure incapable of displaying any genuine emotion. This Felliniesque style is most noticeable in Sutherland’s acting and appearance, which was made overtly graphic at the director’s request. Other unusual techniques include a scene where Sutherland rows across a stormy sea made from black plastic sheets.
Fellini’s dislike of the character was well documented, and in one interview he even referred to exposing “the void” of Casanova’s life. Consequently, Fellini’s interpretation goes against the traditional notion of Casanova as an enlightened gadabout. The original script was very brutal on the historical figure. It wasn’t until Fellini shot the scene of Casanova and the nun that he began to sympathize with Casanova’s inability to love, giving him the character of the mechanical doll and the dream ending.