Thoughts On: La Dolce Vita/8 1/2 - Character-Spectacle


La Dolce Vita/8 1/2 - Character-Spectacle

Quick Thoughts: La Dolce Vita (1960) & 8/1 (1963)

A journalist/writer wanders through Rome and the chapters of his life. And a film we covered before quite some time ago - link here.


It's difficult to articulate exactly what is so mesmerising about one of the greatest works from a master of cinema: La Dolce Vita. When I first saw this quite a few years ago I enjoyed it as a film by Fellini, but didn't really know what that meant. And I've still not seen this film enough times to say exactly why it is so tremendous. But, on this re-watch, I was struck more than ever by the beautiful black and white cinematography, the mise en scène, the humour and the ambiguous, sometimes inaccessible, play with story structure. However, whilst these elements drew me into the narrative, making every minute of this almost 3 hour film as enjoyable and intriguing as the last, what truly revealed itself was Fellini's use of both spectacle and character.

You see this too in, what is certainly my favourite film of his, 8 1/2, and so a lot of what we talked about in the post dedicated to this film certainly applies to La Dolce Vita. Not only is life turned into an over-the-top circus act in La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2, but the frame is always imbued with some sensationalist entertaining element - whether it be comedy, elegance, beauty, satire, irony, luridness or another (somewhat tuned down) interpretation of cinematic 'exploitation'. However, there is a tone of ingeniousness that undeniably indicates that there is something rare and special about Fellini's films, and I think a shade of that is the manner in which character is injected into this magnificent spectacle. As in 8 1/2, La Dolce Vita uses its characters' deep-seated conflicts connected to relationships and a functional purpose in life (as an artist, provider, husband, wife, ect.) to find this spectacle. And this is what makes Fellini's films special; they balance the serious side of cinema, a side that could be interpreted as art, with its consumer friendly side - entertainment.

In my opinion, this is what the best films manage to do. Not only do they have worth, do they say and do something that benefits the world or maybe just one individual, but they are a joy to be immersed in. This demonstrates the height of artistry in any form it may take; the artist has a relationship with their audience where there is a give and a take, where there isn't just money and fame being handed over for a circus act, but something of a deeper dialogue that isn't draining and pretentious, instead precious and respected.

Re-watching La Dolce Vita ignited a new view of Fellini's work which I'll surely continue to explore. But, what are your thoughts? Have you seen La Dolce Vita or 8 1/2 What do you think of them?

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