A quick Google search will show you that “La Dolce Vita,” which means “the sweet life,” is a popular name for Italian restaurants, bakeries, and coffee shops. The term has taken on a life of its own ever since Federico Fellini’s film of the same title was released in 1960.
“La Strada” is my favorite Fellini film, but I’ve always been curious about “La Dolce Vita.” A couple of weeks ago, I finally watched it on DVD.
“La Dolce Vita” is about a few hectic days and hedonistic nights in the life of a young gossip/entertainment writer in Rome named Marcello (played to a T by Marcello Mastroianni). He aspires to be a serious writer like his friend Steiner, who is popular, successful, and lives in a big house with his beautiful family.
When Marcello is not out chasing stories about movie stars and an alleged apparition of the Virgin Mary, he’s busy partying. He lives with his clingy, suicidal girlfriend, but he also fools around with an heiress and a middle-aged American painter, and flirts with a teen-age waitress. As the title implies, Marcello is having a grand time.
Everything changes after Steiner kills his two young children and himself. Marcello’s decadence culminates in a bizarre orgy that makes it all too clear: his life is anything but sweet.
5 Reasons to Watch “La Dolce Vita”
If you’re a writer and you haven’t seen “La Dolce Vita,” you should watch it. Why? Here are five reasons:
(1) It’s a Cautionary Tale for Writers: First and foremost, the movie is about a writer who talks about writing, more than he actually writes. He escapes with his typewriter to a trattoria by the sea to write. But at the sight of a beautiful young waitress, he forgets all about writing. So, if you’re a writer, don’t be like Marcello!
(2) Get to Know Fellini’s Iconic Scenes: The movie is full of iconic scenes and brilliant shots that have influenced countless films and have been widely referenced in popular culture. The Trevi Fountain scene is the most famous of all. In the middle of the night, when Rome is deserted, Sylvia, an American actress (Anita Ekberg), wades into the fountain playfully. She’s the epitome of a blonde bombshell, and Marcello desperately wants to kiss her, but he doesn’t. Instead he watches her with reverence, as if she were a statue of a goddess.
(3) Trace the Origin of Paparazzi and Celebrity Culture: Everyone knows what paparazzi means: pesky photographers who follow anybody who’s remotely famous, from the British royal family to the Kardashian family. The word originated from a character in this movie, a photographer named Paparazzo. If you’re wondering how today’s celebrity-mad culture started, look no further than “La Dolce Vita.”
(4) Learn What “Fellini-esque” Means: Fellini loved symbols that were odd, and sometimes, downright grotesque. “La Dolce Vita” is full of them. The opening shot shows a helicopter carrying a towering statue of Jesus Christ high above Rome, while a group of bikini-clad women are sunbathing on a rooftop. It puts holy and carnal side by side. The final scene shows a dead sea monster, whose eyes are wide open, staring at Marcello creepily. Fellini found the perfect symbol for everything ugly about Marcello’s decadent and empty life.
(5) Get a Glimpse of Fellini’s Rome: “La Dolce Vita” gives an excellent tour of Fellini’s beloved Rome, from the majestic St. Peter’s Basilica to the city’s frenetic streets and night clubs. The movie shows both the rich and the poor. There are scenes of an aristocratic family throwing a fancy party inside a castle, but also of a prostitute in her flooded basement apartment.