In 1960 at Cannes, Fellini’s La Dolce Vita was pitted against another masterpiece L’Avventura by fellow compatriot Michelangelo Antonioni. Both films shared similar themes but with contrasting approaches dividing audiences. Pauline Kael perhaps the most influential film critic at that time declared L’Avventura the film of the year. It went on to win the Jury prize but was overshadowed by the more accessible La Dolce Vita, which won the more prestigious Palm D’or.
In La Dolce Vita (the sweet life) we follow Marcello a tabloid journalist in Rome who struggles to reconcile the temptation of a seemingly high-society life with his pursuit for something more real. He longs to write something more meaningful and finds solace with his friend and mentor Steiner, an intellectual who urges him to write a novel. The film chronicles his search and the temptations that make him stray over several days and nights. Then something happens which changes our hero forever.
La Dolce Vita is perhaps Fellini’s greatest work. There is hidden depth and symbolism throughout, down to even the clothes Marcello wears. The music by the legendary Nino Rota provides the perfect rhythm and energy; and strangely enough the movements of the actors seem to flow along with it. The reception of the film was so positive that Paparazzo, the name of a photographer in the film coined a word which we all know only too well. Ironically Marcello Mastroianni who had been cast in the lead because of his “ordinary” face became synonymous with the term latin lover.
The impact though in cinema folklore has been immortalized by the scenes shot along Rome’s Via Veneto; and of course the famous Trevi fountain scene with Anita Ekberg donning an almost temptress like persona calling out to Marcello in her heavily accented voice. He walks up but is unable to touch her. What is holding him back? What does she represent? Conversely in the end an angelic young girl who Marcello met at a trattoria calls out to him across the beach. Does he hear her or has he become a victim of “the sweet life”? Then, she looks at us…
Score: 5 / 5