One hundred percent of all the films I have seen with “Vita” in the title have left me feeling a little worse for wear. I do not intend for that to read that I do not care for them; quite the opposite, in fact. When I peeled back the plastic wrapper from my copy of La Dolce Vita I had a preconceived notion of greatness, which did play out, but not how I expected.
The film, directed by Federico Fellini, follows Marcello Rubini, played by Marcello Mastroianni, over seven days and the scenes are broken up between day and night as he lives a rather lavish lifestyle as a celebrity journalist eager to further his future as a novelist. His career allows him access to excess and beautiful people as he constantly navigates a sea of paparazzos to act as a guide to celebutants. The film’s first turn takes place when Emma, Marcello’s fiancée, takes an overdose of medication.
The suicide attempt is the first of many scenes leaving me – or any viewer, I would imagine – unsure whether Marcello, or any of us, can really achieve “the sweet life” that the title mentions. By the end of the film I was left breathless as Marcello shrugs off doubt, almost accepting that his life will end up becoming whatever it ends up becoming. This in a way mirrors 8 ½, Fellini’s other film on this list, as the director gives only what he is willing to give and nothing more.
Wikipedia suggests that La Dolce Vita is a comedy-drama and it does have a few casual laughs. The third scene with Steiner, however, sucks the comedy clear out, leaving Marcello and the viewers rife with pure emotion. I am not surprised that the film is on this list and it certainly deserve to be; it is written, acted, and photographed beautifully. I highly recommend this film to every viewer.
I hate to issue this warning – you should definitely go in with a clear mind – but La Dolce Vita will test your emotions; it will give you pause. You may even start second-guessing many of your life choices, and that is okay. Film is art and it is the goal of some art to remind you that you are neither alone, nor are you stagnant. You are the purest representation of who you are regardless of what you do or how you do it.