La Dolce Vita: The Endless Pursuit Of Pleasure

Sabrina Pusterla bring us back to the sparkling Rome of la Dolce Vita, where the life journey of a man takes place

In a sparkling Rome of the 60’s, among parties and excesses, the seven days journey of Marcello Rubini, a gorgeous man living a frivolous life, but also a profound personal crisis due to the fact that he can’t reach happiness and pleasure, takes place. A satirical picture by a modern Oscar Wilde dipped into a dreamy and luxurious world had just made history.

La Dolce Vita‘ (1960) by Federico Fellini is one of the greatest Italian productions of all time. Even now, it is still considered a masterpiece and a milestone for the entire movie industry. Fellini thus opened a new flourishing Italian cinema era that became well-known worldwide, launching once and for all the cinematographic movement of ‘Italian neorealism’.

Marcello’s life.

The story is about Marcello (played by an amazing and charming Marcello Mastroianni), an Italian good-looking gossip columnist, who wanders with his faithful paparazzo around the streets of Rome, living therefore a frivolous and superficial existence in the high society of that time. The movie displays a glittering Rome full of rich people and aristocrats, parties and cafes, playboys and prostitutes, movie stars and beautiful women.

Marcello conducts the audience through his life, becoming the guide for a long spectacular experience between popularity, lovely times and religious appearances. A sort of peregrination of a man looking for a meaning, at the same time unable to find it anywhere, especially in a context full of flashing lights and people.

Beyond a beautiful aesthetic construction, Fellini’s deep purpose was to do a parody of life, in which the wandering of Marcello during days and nights is a metaphor for all human beings: we can have everything, but we won’t be totally satisfied at the end.

Sacred, profane and the women

Fellini loved to contrast the sacred world with the profane excesses and that’s why his movie was banned by the Roman Church. There are many references to Christianity, as the first scene of the movie displays an helicopter carrying the statue of Christ, or for example when Marcello sees a false apparition of a Virgin.

Women also play a relevant role in La Dolce Vita: for Marcello, each of them provides him a different adventure and experience, but none of them can fill his inner void: there’s space for her fiancee Emma, for a short liaison with Maddalena and the iconic, and for a beautiful foreign actress, Sylvie (Anita Ekberg).

The capital and the Roman sweet life

The city of Rome is a relevant part of the movie, not only as the film location, but also as one of its main characters: the capital, with all its streets and places such as Veneto Street, Trevi’s Fountain, People’s Square, Saint Peter’s Dome, is the unique set where Marcello is immersed. Few directors portrayed Rome as well as Fellini did, with such grace and love.

Moreover, he succeeded in showing accurately the overwhelming lightheartedness mood of those years. Indeed, between the 1950’s and 1960’s Italy experienced a considerable economic and social growth characterized by a wealth boom and the growing population that made Rome become the main center of the Italian ‘Sweet Life’.

The hand of Federico Fellini

These are the reasons why Fellini’s cinema is a masterclass for all directors. Considered a visionary with a unique approach, his type of cinema was therefore renamed ‘magic realism’, because he wanted and managed to describe the flow of life between fiction and reality, using irony and contrasts with a tone of melancholy and some dreamy elements.

He produced a wide range of unforgettable movies, such as as his autobiographical film ‘8 1/2’, ‘Amarcord’, the famous ‘Nights of Cabiria’, ‘The White Sheikh’ featuring Alberto Sordi, ‘I Vitelloni‘ and so on.

However, Fellini’s creativity exploded with ‘La Dolce Vita’, where he achieved his highest artistic peak and a complete freedom by playing with all his creativity. His legacy is so immense also thanks to another great of the Italian movie industry called Michelangelo Antonioni, as they both expanded the movement of ‘neorealism’.

A deep sense of emptiness and melancholy… Replicated in other movies

His footprint can still be seen today. There are a lot of similarities with other productions, such as ‘The Terrace’ (1979) by Ettore Scola, ‘The Great Beauty’ (2013) and ‘Youth’ (2015) by Paolo Sorrentino – the Neapolitan director considered the successor of Fellini due to his cinematographic style – and ‘Knights of Cups’ (2015) by Terrence Malik, whose plot tells about a man that, albeit living in a beautiful world, feels a deep feeling of emptiness, reason why he looks for something that he can’t just find.

Therefore, as great directors taught us although in opposite contexts and different periods of time, the impossibility of being happy remains the letimotiv of life.