La Dolce Vita

  • La Dolce Vita
  • Director: Federico Fellini
  • Year: 1960

Perhaps no other film has made as much of an impact on the international perception of Rome as Federico Fellini's 1960 film La Dolce Vita. Almost fifty years after the film's release, no tourist guide (including Rome File) can write about The Trevi Fountain without mentioning the famous scene in which Anita Ekberg takes an impromptu dip, and the bars of the Via Veneto still make a fortune from people looking to replicate those long, rambling evenings filled with drink and gossip and fading celebrities.

La Dolce Vita La Dolce Vita

The late 1950s were a boom time for Rome and for Italy. The economy was improving, and the country was beginning to climb out of the post-war recession and the desperation that was documented in films like Bicycle Thieves. It was an optimistic period but in the Rome of La Dolce Vita it is also a vacuous one, where meaning and purpose are ignored in favour of a nihilistic absorption in superficialities.

Marcello Mastroianni plays Marcello Rubini, a tabloid hack and gossip columnist with aspirations towards one day becoming a great writer. His moral downfall in the film takes place over the course of seven separate nights and mornings. In these episodes we see him stand in a field awaiting a vision of the Madonna, spend an unexpected evening with his father, romance the larger-than-life American actress played by Ekberg, and attend countless parties in and around Rome. During these nights he regularly runs into his photographer Paparazzo (a character whose name has since become synonymous with tabloid photojournalism) and Maddalena, a woman with whom Marcello has a sexualised friendship that threatens to break into romance without ever quite getting there. One episode also features a young Nico (the Andy Warhol collaborator and singer with The Velvet Underground), who according to legend turned up on a set visit, caught Fellini's eye and was given a sizeable part playing herself.

Throughout these proceedings, only briefly does Marcello break out and attempt to achieve something more serious; he soon gives up, and the attempt is the subject of a melancholic recollection in the last moments of the film.

DVD releases

There are two editions of La Dolce Vita currently available on DVD in the USA. The first is a 2-disc edition, the second disc of which contains a variety of short extras ranging from a montage of footage of Cinecittå studios to brief interviews with Ekberg and Mastroianni. The 3-disc edition contains a third disc with additional extras, as well as photocards, a booklet and a poster.

The DVD currently available in the UK is on one disc, with an interview with Anita Ekberg.