This year’s Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film marks the record breaking 11th win for Italy in the category. Paolo Sorrentino‘s “The Great Beauty” follows on the footsteps of his great film predecessor and source of inspiration Frederico Fellini.
The director follows his protagonist around Rome, which at times is enchanting, at times consuming, and at time accentuates the feeling of loneliness and existential despair. The protagonist at hand is a retired writer who wrote one successful novel in his twenties and then retired in writing cultural columns and throwing parties in Rome. After his 65th birthday party, Jep Gambardella, wanders around Rome encountering old acquaintances, reflecting on his life, his loves and immerses himself in the existential crisis brought by the feeling of unfulfillment.
Sorrentino treats his hero with sensitivity, the theme of loss is ever present, physical loss, loss of purpose and the end loss of self. Through Gambardella’s life the film explores Italian politics and history from 70’s on, the social changes that occurred as well as the end of the ”dolce vita” era. Evidence of that is how Gambardella looks at the Japanese tourists, roaming Rome and admiring the sites; almost with envy of their enchantment with the city, a feeling that he has lost forever.
Gambardella comes to Rome with a very clear idea of what he wanted to be. He wanted to be the toast of the party but at the same time be its demise. He ended up being a socialite and that deprived him, or so he tells himself, to reach the intellectual heights that he aspired to. The void inside him became bigger with the loss of his first love and that marked him in more than one ways since his internal journey ends with her image and the time they met.
The film is a clear tribute to Fellini’s Dolce Vita and the eternal triviality of the glitz and glamour now and then. Toni Servillo delivers a moving, melancholic and filled with wit performance of the descending writer and his journey in the night through the eternal city.
The film gained momentum at the Cannes Film Festival and then became the new international darling in festivals and award ceremonies alike. Paolo Sorrentino’s filmography exhibits a diversity in style and themes. One could say that this is a sign of a never-ending curiosity for exploring the world that surrounds him and the human nature. So if you enjoy discovering new and interesting directors with an original point of view like Sorrentino then you should all attend the 9th edition of the ÉCU Film Festival from April 4-6 in Paris.