La Dolce Vita: Fellini’s Cinema of Poetry

by AMEL MEGHRAOUA / 04.19.2016



“There is no end. There is no beginning.

There is only the infinite passion of life.”

-Federico Fellini

It is our emotional engagement with cinema that endlessly intrigues: A perceptual experience that leaves us lingering between the unveiling of another’s vision and the recognition of ourselves, our most intimate traces, onscreen. In awakening our senses some have enticed us, a few auteurs; but none have transcended the realm so entirely as Federico Fellini.

With oeuvres like “La Strada,” Fellini’s forte is in the delivery of a rare poetic lyricism. As the voyage of a young waif-like girl who is sold by her mother unfolds, themes of spiritual poverty emerge—an outgrowth of the Neo-realist focus on a poverty of means. This is the definition of Felliniesque: abandoning all convention and luring us in to appraise the intricacies of expression.

A road epitomizes one’s search for purpose. Fellini once referred to
“La Strada” aspeace with myself and my pride as an artist;” he later echoed this autobiographical ethos in films like “8 ½” and one of his finest oeuvres, “La Dolce Vita.”

In offering a spiritual truth (so intimate that one cannot help but project their own meanings when experiencing it) “La Dolce Vita” is a reflection of life with all its complexities. Through the life of journalist and would-be-serious writer, Marcello Mastroianni, “La Dolce Vitais an exploration of dissatisfaction: dissatisfaction with work and love. It is essentially a reflection on where one finds (or fails to find) sense in life.

Fellini’s gift for the highly-theatrical image is always a central component of his films. A monochromic voyage amid the streets of Rome reveals an array of captivating personages, each confessing. And who can forget the image of Sylvia (Anita Ekberg) luring Marcello into the Trevi fountain? A symbol of innocence and feminine purity, juxtaposed against the scenery of a corrupted world.

With Mastroianni’s refined portrayal of a troubled soul, we are left to face brutal questions about the essence of man while we witness him drift from intrigued to obsessed, cynical to insecure. Ultimately, Fellini takes us beyond the decadence of a modernist Rome, to observe the city’s greatest asset: its people. He replaces the social with the intimate, and in doing so provokes a lyrical authenticity—a cinematic rarity.

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