Lots of commentaries on Fellini’s 1960 film, La Dolce Vita, make much of the fact that it contains many allusions to Dante. Is this surprising, that an Italian artist should do this? No more than that an English speaking writer would quote Shakespeare or the King James Bible.
A long film, a rich film, a simple story. A man searching for…a way out of the shallowness, ennui, and spiritual desolation of his life. A beautiful woman loves him, but maybe she’s the wrong one for him. She would need a little more sophistication to wrestle him to the ground, so he grinds her up and spits her out. He is disgusted by his “friends,” but who else does he have? The man he seems to admire commits a grisly suicide. His father? He hardly knows him, and genuine article that he is, he has a few of his own illusions to deal with. Maybe Marcello is just too handsome for his own good.
At the end, he encounters again the beautiful young girl from a little cafe he met earlier. A profile like an angel. She beckons to him, but he can’t hear her across the waves. He goes back to his degenerate orgiasts who are leaving the beach where they were gawking at an enormous “sea monster” the fishermen brought in. Might there be a shred of hope left for him?
The most famous sequence features Anita Ekberg and the Trevi Fountain in Rome. Another beckoning blonde, but this is no angel from an Umbrian frescoe. It’s a Swedish-American pagan goddess offering erotic transcendence. At least until the municipal authorities turn off the fountain’s water supply…