Fellini’s film La Dolce Vita depicts a series a series of episodes in the life of Marcello, a tabloid journalist who feels nothing bus contempt for his work and aspires to higher things, yet is sucked into the decadent lifestyle of the celebrities he is following. He has a girlfriend who loves him and wants marriage and a family, but sees his close friend commit suicide, depressed with the mendacity of keeping up social appearances in the very kind of home Marcello’s girlfriend wants. He is more enthused by other women (Anita Eckberg in particular), but sees that they are ultimately empty. Marcello’s dilemmas echo those I examined in my Hero of Our Time series.
I just want to talk about the ending of the film. Still drunk after an all night party at which he demonstrated his increasing meanness of soul, he joins the other partiers on the beach. By chance a young girl whom he had recently met, whose angelic innocence had fascinated him, is there as well, but she is separated from him by an estuary, and the sound of the ocean overwhelms their voices. She gestures enigmatically, but while he is at first intrigued, he decides he can’t be bothered, and turns away, back to his regular life. Watch the final scene. (You can find it on youtube, but it’s only meaningful in context.)
Innocence speaks to us in our corruption. Will we listen? And can we understand it?