Federico Fellini was from Rimini but moved to Rome in 1939. He wanted to be a writer but enrolled in law school to appease his parents. Of course the war changed everything. Fellini was into making films evolving around politics more than in taking a political stance. So, for a part of WWII, he and Giulietta Masina (who was to become his wife) hid out in the apartment of Giulietta’s aunt.
After the Allied liberation of Rome, Fellini met Roberto Rossellini (buried at Verano) and got involved with Neo-realism. Fellini, along with Sergio Amidei (also at Verano), helped write the screenplay for Rossellini’s Rome, Open City.
In 1948, Fellini met Marcello Mastroianni who was acting in a play with Giulietta. And thus began a relationship that would last for the rest of his life.
Marcello loved beautiful women. One of his first loves was Silvana Mangano. They were from the same neighborhood in Rome. She was 16 and he was 22. Marcello was already involved in film and introduced Silvana to the movie industry where she had great success and became a sex symbol after the film Riso amaro (Bitter Rice, 1949) because of the shorts and ripped stocking she wore. But Marcello was already somewhat of a playboy and the two broke-up only to make a film together years later, Oci Ciornie (Dark Eyes, 1987), Silvana’s last film. In the film Marcello plays her husband who flirts around with a much younger woman. Typecasting?
Fellini was greatly inspired by the Wilma Montesi case for the making of La Dolce Vita. Life in Italy went through major changes after WW II. After years of poverty and la miseria, the economy began to prosper. Fellini was aware of the change and departed from neo-realism. After years of being overdosed on the need to survive, Italians wanted to dream. And, for the cost of a ticket, the movie industry gave them more dreams than they could consume.
Mastroianni was a true lady’s man which made him perfect for the role of Marcello Rubini, the restless reporter in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita.
The film opens with the weak-willed but handsome Marcello in a helicopter that’s transporting a statue of Jesus and ends with the discovery of a Leviathan on the beach. Sandwiched in between these two scenes are vignettes representing Rome’s Babylonian lifestyle. The statue of Jesus is a fake whereas the fish monster is real. But hedonists love the fake and hate the real. And this, basically, is what the film is all about.
One of the film’s most famous scenes is that of the Trevi fountain where Sylvia (Anita Ekberg) walks into the fountain and, after splashing around for awhile, calls out “vieni Marcello vieni”. Marcello, mesmerized by her beauty, immerses himself in the water, too. Not having formed his own ideals, Marcello feels a romanticism towards those things that are not romantic at all. He is far away from “the sweet life” (dolce vita) he thinks he is living.
Triva: the scene was shot in January. Ekberg was Swedish and not afraid of the cold. But Mastroianni was and, to get himself into the water, he insisted on drinking a lot of vodka first and then on wearing a wetsuit under his clothes.
La Dolce Vita is the story about those who want a glamorous lifestyle without understanding the consequences. Seeing self-gratification as an ideal, they cannot see that glamour is often synonymous with the grotesque and, most of all, that emptiness produces desperation.
Two curiosites about the film: (1) much of the film was not shot on location but in the studios of Cinecitta (studio 5) where Via Veneto had been reconstructed. (2) Nico of the Velvet Underground was invited to La Dolce Vita set where she awed Fellini so he gave her a small part in the film. Nico, a heroin addict and bohemian searching for her purpose in life, was very much a Dolce Vita person.
Marcello Mastroianni’s grave
Collocazione: Zona Ampliamento, Gruppo 1, tomba 71
Verano Monumental Cemetery series