The Portrayal of the Media Industry in La Dolce Vita
Federico Fellini’s portrayal of the Italian media and film industry in the 1960 movie La Dolce Vita is far from innocuous. La Dolce Vita has comic moments throughout, but there is an underlying skepticism that signifies Fellini’s deeply concerned feelings about the direction that the media industry was heading. Fellini portrays journalists and movie stars unsympathetically overall in La Dolce Vita, painting said figures as superficial and self-important.
Marcello flirts with actresses and celebrities constantly throughout La Dolce Vita. He seeks a relationship with someone famous, even though he is already engaged to another woman. When his fiancée poisons herself and nearly dies at the beginning of the movie, Marcello only berates her for it. This attitude implies a skewed sense of morals on Marcello’s part. The fact that he would blame his fiancée rather than feel bad for her, coupled with the fact that he soon pursues other women following her trip to the hospital, paints Marcello as a journalist with a poor sense of personal ethics.
After spending an evening wandering around Rome with an American actress, Marcello is beaten up by the actress’s husband. While the husband is attacking Marcello, photographers and journalists gather around, asking for the two characters to look at their cameras. These photographers have the power to break up the fight, but they just snap pictures of the fight instead. This scene implies that journalists are more interested in providing controversial subject matter for their media outlets rather than diffusing any kind of conflicts they see.
In another scene in La Dolce Vita, a media mogul comments on how he views his Asian female musician as exotic and exciting. The relationship between the man and his female musician worker is a microcosm of the relationship between the dominant European powers and the subjugated (and often stereotyped and exoticized) Asian countries during the 20th century. Here, Fellini is demonstrating the problematic political and global implications of an irresponsible media industry.
Soon after that exchange, another journalist character talks about his recordings of the sounds of nature. The fact that the natural world is being made into a commodity for the use of the rich implies how far-removed media agents are from the world outside of their line of work. The searchlights that shine outside the window during this character’s monologue further accentuate how media takes precedence over nature in the modern entertainment-addicted world.
La Dolce Vita’s representations of the problems with the media are subtle. This subtlety does not change the fact that the problems are widespread, varied, and ultimately very important ones. The opportunism and flawed values that the characters in La Dolce Vita exemplify are so deep-set that no one in the movie calls anyone out on their flaws. La Dolce Vita is just as relevant to today’s media and entertainment industry, since these characters’ mentalities still show through in the reality television and sensationalist news media of the 21st century. One wonders if Fellini’s film would be much different if it were made today.
Fellini, Federico. La Dolce Vita. Cineriz, 1960. Film.
(Image courtesy of rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movies-la-dolce-vita-1960)