Visit The Illusion of Romanità High Life in Sorrentino’s Comedy-Drama, The Great Beauty.

Author: fayeharris

The Great Beauty, or La Grande Bellezza is the 2013 triple-winning Best Foreign Language Film, co-written and produced by Paolo Sorrentino, the man who achieved international recognition in 2004 for his thriller, The Consequences of Love. The Italian comedy-drama which was filmed throughout the city of Rome, won a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, and an Oscar at the 86th Academy Awards. It premiered at 2013 Cannes Film Festival, where it went up for competition for the Palme d’Or, as well as showed at international film festivals in Toronto and Reykjavik.

Awakening the senses, the film opens with tourists clapping at a tank fire demonstration, we then hear church bells, dogs barking, birds chirping, the city of Rome wakes up with us. The eerily beautiful choir, with sorrow in their voices singing from the balcony of a historical landmark. The film instantly depicts the city’s historic and religious nature, swiftly jerking you to a pumping Eurotrash dance party where we are introduced to Jep Gambardella (played by actor Toni Servillo) at his 65th birthday party.  


Sorrentino’s well-received film that grossed $2.9 million at the U.S. box office, tells the story of Jep as “the king of the high life,” an aging, one-hit wonder novelist who comes to rediscover what the city of Rome is outside of its bourgeoisie Romanità bubble. The glamourous life isn’t quite as glamourous as it seems with leathery-skinned elders, ceaseless smoking, dancing on bars, showing a lot of skin.

Jep finds himself walking through the city streets to reflect on his unfulfilled life. Bearing similarities to the writer in The Great Gatsby who becomes enthralled with and captivated by the world of the wealthy, yet comes to witness all of the deceit and illusions of upper class life. Jep’s anachronistic character who never leaves the city and remains among his kind, suddenly becomes brutally honest about his company, how their lives aren’t especial, talking trivial nonsense to mask the fact that they are all equal f**k ups.

Age seems to be a constant matter in the film, the divide between the youth and the aging generation that doesn’t quite want to grow up; lifelong bachelors that want to find new meaning to their lives. “The old is better than the new” for Rome, which makes sense for a city that’s history spans more than two and a half thousand years, and was one of the first centres of Italian Renaissance, bearing Baroque style and Neoclassicism. Rome itself is a capital of two states, and like its divided self, the enchanting film constantly switches between what it’s like on the outside of high life and what’s it like on the inside; almost like introspective narrative that’s happening simultaneously to witnessing Jep’s life unfolding.

Sorrentino’s use of swift and sweeping camera movements, very very up close and personal, makes you feel like you’re in the city of Rome amongst the characters. You become the tourist.

Italian language itself is known to sound as though people are singing when they speak, and these passionate and emotive sounds are significant throughout the entire film; the harsh mix between stillness and obnoxiously loud electronic dance music. Small sounds are exaggerated, someone’s breath when they’re dancing, a nun wailing as she hears the news of a death. The sounds of the city going on without Jep. “Amateur dramatics are not dead.” 

The humor is stark, sarcastic, and sprinkled with brutal honesty. A bittersweet whirlpool of living the high life in Italy, this passionate and unvarnished representation of Italian culture should not be missed.

Source: Movieclips Trailers on YouTube

Author: fayeharris

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