La Dolce Vita (1960) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • A series of stories following a week in the life of a philandering paparazzo journalist living in Rome.

  • Journalist and man-about-town Marcello struggles to find his place in the world, torn between the allure of Rome's elite social scene and the stifling domesticity offered by his girlfriend, all the while searching for a way to become a serious writer.

  • Rome, 1959/60. Marcello Rubini (played by Marcello Mastroianni) is a writer and journalist, the worst kind of journalist - a tabloid journalist, or paparazzo. His job involves him trying to catch celebrities in compromising or embarrassing situations. He tends to get quite close to his subject, especially when they're beautiful women. Two such subjects are a local heiress, Maddalena (Anouk Aimee), and a Swedish superstar-actress, Sylvia (Anita Ekberg), both of whom he has affairs with. This is despite being engaged to Emma (Yvonne Furneaux), a rather clingy, insecure, nagging, melodramatic woman. Despite his extravagant, pleasure-filled lifestyle, he is wondering if maybe a simpler life wouldn't be better.

  • Basking in the allure of early-1960s Rome and bustling Via Veneto's elegant sybarites and cosmopolitan celebrities, the hopeful writer and now a stylish columnist, Marcello Rubini, spends his nights looking for the next big story, or better still, a new excitement. Balancing between hedonism and cynicism; self-loathing, and an irrepressible yearning for freedom and beauty, the philandering reporter will put his undeniable charm to the test, when the international film star and unattainable object of desire, Sylvia, arrives in town. Now, against the backdrop of the eternal Fontana di Trevi, dreams burn down, as an undying hope for a better future gives way to a new set of enticements--this almost feral passion for life and an equally unquenched desire for love have always defined Marcello's thirsty existence. However, what is the price to pay for a hearty slice of the sweet life?

  • Seven days (and nights) in the life of a Marcello, a Roman journalist torn between making something serious of his life or drifting along on a pleasant if empty stream of casual affairs and profitable, but meaningless, newspaper and magazine work. In the course of the week, he flirts with a visiting movie star has a couple of encounters with a bored socialite, one of them in a prostitute's bedroom, is shocked when Steiner, a "serious" writer and deep thinker kills himself and his children, and generally ignores his adoring girlfriend. In the end, he seems to have cut himself adrift on a sea of frivolity and self-disgust, with no real idea of how to find his way "home" again . . .

  • Marcello is a society gossip columnist. During one of his rounds, he meets again Maddalena and spends the night with her in a whore's bedroom. When he comes back home the next morning, he discovers that his girlfriend Emma poisoned herself because of him. Later, he is at the airport where the famous star Sylvia is arriving : he will go with her a few days... A chronicle of a decadent society where there is no more values except alcohol and sex, and no solutions but suicide.



The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Another way to look at La Dolce Vita is to think of Marcello's journey (played by Marcello Mastroianni) as the cinematic version of the Book of Daniel which describes the "Apocalypse" or Revelation: a disclosure of something hidden from the majority of mankind in an era dominated by falsehood and misconception. The film begins with the imagery of Christ flying over Rome as a helicopter carries a religious statue aloft over the city -- or visions of Angels. Marcello's journey includes encounters with the "Great Whore" (Sylvia, played by Anita Ekberg), the suicide of his close friend whose life has descended into despair, a Judgment of the wicked (the orgy at the villa), the Beast (symbolized by the manta ray/devil fish on the beach), the purity of the virginal young girl who beckons to Marcello to save him but he chooses the decadent life -- viewed in this way, the film has a layer of symbolism that deepens it.

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