“The film first impinged on the world at large in February 1960 when foreign journalists reported back to their readers, listeners and viewers on the controversial reception in Italy, where it divided audiences, critics and clerics, and led to Fellini being both spat on and cheered at the Milan premiere.” (Source: Philip French’s film review in the Guardian)
“Jesus Christ swings over Rome in a breathtaking opening sequence; a statue suspended from a helicopter where Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni) beckons to a gaggle of sunbathing beauties below. He’s a spiritually bankrupt man who pushes girlfriend Emma (Yvonne Furneaux) to the brink of suicide with his incessant philandering. Nonetheless he cannot resist ‘the sweet life’ of sex and partying, seductively embodied by Hollywood movie star Sylvia – a voluptuous Anita Ekberg framed like a goddess as she cavorts in the Trevi Fountain.” (Source: Stella Papamichael’s film review in the BBC)
The Fontana di Trevi scene.
And the unforgettable music of Nino Rota.
“It was I who made Fellini famous, not the other way around”. (Anita Ekberg)
Ekberg is quoted (in a TV interview) as saying “Mrcello was zero when I met him, I made him famous!”.
No matter what the real case is, both Marcello and Anita are beautiful and doomed in this movie.
“La Dolce Vita” is actually a bittersweet life, with the bitter taste ever present, not letting the sweet enjoy a victory. Marcello never really gets around to the sweet comfort of victory or pleasure. He is always chasing, something elusive, without being able to actually experience something, as the object of experience is continuously fragmented and disjointed.
Fellini has described La Dolce Vita as “a journey through the inauthentic” (in Federico Fellini’s Autobiography, a documentary by Paquito del Bosco available on the Criterion Collection DVD, La Strada). The film displays an almost palpable anxiety over the question of distinguishing the authentic from the inauthentic, the real from the simulated; and it is because of Marcello’s inability to make reliable distinctions between these categories that the film steadily moves towards a sense of chaos and disorder. The pervasive superficiality and artificiality of the characters Marcello encounters suggest a psychology in which identity is always concealed behind a social mask, and masquerade and performance have become the key elements of self. Such a view of human psychology inevitably forces us to confront the irreducible distance between self and other, a distance that is most often represented by Fellini as a breakdown of human communication. …. La Dolce Vita is a dense, complex portrait of modern life; a scathing critique of media culture, of its artificiality and sensationalism, its squandering of social energy in pursuit of the trivial, its insatiable appetite for scandal and the thrill of “the new. And it is equally an analysis of the “modern” self, of the narcissism and vanity that underlie sexual desire and which inhibit any meaningful communication between human beings. La Dolce Vita is about the emotional and spiritual cost of embracing such values. And it is also an expression of Fellini’s own anxieties as an artist, his concern that as a filmmaker he is like Marcello, a chronicler of the trivial and the unimportant. The crisis in Fellini’s conception of himself as an artist and filmmaker would find its fullest fictional treatment in his next solo film, 8 1/2. (Source: Fellini’s Roman Circus)
At the end, he encounters again the beautiful young girl from a little cafe he met earlier. A profile like an angel. She beckons to him, but he can’t hear her across the waves. He goes back to his degenerate orgiasts who are leaving the beach where they were gawking at an enormous “sea monster” the fishermen brought in. Might there be a shred of hope left for him? (Source: Journey to perplexity)
Marcello cannot hear what the angel figure across the beach of Fregena is telling him He knows very well that he is not going to stay there, that he is going to go. He will walk away from his only chance to redeem himself. Redemption appeared before him and he turns it away. Marcello actually watches his redemption ticket being burned.
La Dolce Vita is a big puzzle with a simple end, that there is an end, sooner or later, and there are only limited choices that appear in front of us. The choices we make and the end are intertwined.
We talk a lot about the end. The personal end, as I cannot foretell or describe the end of the world or the universe, should there ever be such an event. What is the personal end? I do not know, I have not experienced it yet. But I have a picture of it in my mind, it is the circus characters’ band walking on the beach at sunset, when the daylight gives its place to the darkness of the night. (the photo is from Fellini’s 8 1/2).