After 30min it was clear “The Great Beauty” was more a Fellini-type of movie, and I had to check the small signs of a Mac or other indicators that this is current movie. It could easily have been a classic Fellini with its array of colorful, absurd, over the top characters and lack of plot. What drew me in immediately where the roof top over Rome party scenes. My favorite type of dance music and everyone, in every shape, size and age group, brought it on, shaking to the rhythm like they owned it. Bravo, Italia! I thought. “Everyone has the attitude it does not matter who you are, elegance, beauty, sensuality and living life belongs to you. La Dolce Vita.”.
The scenes of dazzling night life are contrasted with scenes of solemn women singing and a Japanese tourist suddenly dropping dead. Foreshadowing – nightlife and death. After a while the plot becomes clear. It is about Jep, an aging socialite, on his 65th birthday when he starts to reflect on his life. In his youth he had loved Elisa but she left him and he never knew why. He never married, only wrote on book in his youth (when he still believed in the beauty and poetry of life) and then was too distracted by just living the glittery high society nightlife of Rome, which was really more empty, overstimulated, with a lack of real emotions. It is a loving homage to his friends, and all of them having had their smaller and larger disappointments and disillusionments in life, but they jointly, politely, lovingly keep the illusion of the “Grande Bellezza” of life intact. Yet, people feel empty, people kill themselves, hang on to trying to be finally successful or loved, die too young of unspecified illnesses, retreat to their hometown and disillusioned leave Rome. But Jep, encountering a 104 year old nun/saint, whose goal it is to climb the stairs to a saint in a church on her knees on her visit from Africa, depicting so clearly that much of life can be pain, suffering and hard work, finds his roots, connects to the true beauty of life again and starts to write his second book. The film ends with a boat ride on the Tiber through Rome, underneath the stone bridges at sunrise (after a typical long party night).
The film opened with a quote: “To travel is very useful, it makes the imagination work, the rest is just delusion and pain. Our journey is entirely imaginary, which is its strength.”
(“The Great Beauty” won the Oscar for Best Foreign Movie this year).