The sweet life

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German title The sweet life
Original title La dolce vita
Country of production Italy , France
original language Italian , English , German
Publishing year 1960
length 174 minutes
Age rating FSK 12
Director Federico Fellini
script Federico Fellini
Ennio Flaiano
Tullio Pinelli
production Giuseppe Amato
Franco Magli
Angelo Rizzoli
music Nino Rota
camera Otello Martelli
cut Leo Cattozzo

The sweet life (original title: La dolce vita ) is a black and white film by Federico Fellini from 1960. Marcello Mastroianni , Anouk Aimée , Yvonne Furneaux , Anita Ekberg and Alain Cuny can be seen in the leading roles . The scene with Ekberg in the Trevi Fountain became world famous .

The film is about the life of the " high society " in Rome in the fifties . The intoxicating life between street flirting and parties every evening is disturbed by the existential questions of life that are no longer diminishing.


Marcello Rubini is a tabloid journalist with writing ambitions. The womanizer is on the hunt for the "sweet" secrets of the celebrities on the Via Veneto with its exclusive nightclubs and cafes, where night life pulsates. Always surrounded by a swarm of photographers who follow his trail in the hope of a good story or a good shot , Marcello moves through summery Rome. At the beginning you see him sitting in a helicopter, which accompanies the arrival of a statue of Christ in the Vatican with another helicopter. Marcello tries to exchange phone numbers with some women on a rooftop, but the helicopter noise turns out to be too loud.

One evening in a nightclub, Marcello meets the wealthy but bored heiress Maddalena. They make a night foray through Rome in a Cadillac and let a poor prostitute get into their car. Marcello and Maddalena spend the night together in the woman's modest apartment. The next morning, Marcello returns to his apartment and finds that his fiancée Emma has attempted suicide while he was away. On the way and also in the hospital he explains his love to her and asks her in panic why she wanted to take her own life. While waiting in the hospital for Emma to wake up, he tries to call Maddalena again.

Sylvia, a Swedish-American film star, arrives in Rome and is greeted by a pack of reporters at Rome Ciampino Airport . During an insignificant press conference in Sylvia's hotel room, Marcello calls Emma, ​​who is still weakened, and asks skeptically whether he isn't alone with Sylvia. Later that day, Marcello actually has a moment alone with the film star, as only he manages to follow Sylvia who quickly walks onto the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica . In the evening the two dance together at a party in the Caracalla thermal baths , at which Sylvia's annoyed fiancé Robert is also present, who drops cynical comments about them. The movie star leaves the party with Marcello, who is fascinated and wants to seduce her, and they roam through Rome at night. Sylvia goes into the Trevi Fountain in her evening dress and Marcello follows her. The next morning Marcello brings them back to the hotel and the photographers wake up Robert, who is sleeping in his car, in order to take a picture of his jealous reaction. Robert knocks down Marcello, who accepts this without resistance.

Marcello drives with Emma and the photographer Paparazzo to a village near Rome, where two children are said to have appeared to Mary , the mother of Jesus. Although the church is skeptical of the supposed miracle, a large number of believers, onlookers and reporters have already gathered in the village. Emma is critical of the hustle and bustle, while Marcello quickly gets into work. In the evening, the two children appear in the crowd and have fun leading people from one place to another in the heavy rain. Meanwhile, the pack is tearing up the tree under which Mary is said to have appeared. A sick child dies in the turmoil and is mourned that morning by his mother and the few people who remained there.

Marcello still dreams of renouncing the fleeting life and becoming a serious writer. Together with Emma he visits a group of intellectuals and artists who meet at his friend Steiner's esteemed friend. Emma wants herself to have a family with Marcello like Steiner has with his wife and two children. Instead, an American poet advises Marcello never to commit to an obligation. In a conversation with Marcello, Steiner also doubts whether he has made the right choice for himself as a middle-class father. He was afraid of the world in which his beloved children would grow up. Marcello tries to write at a beach bar. He is fascinated by the young Paola, the kind and beautiful waitress. He compares Paola to Umbrian paintings and asks if she has a boyfriend.

Marcello's father, whom he has not seen for a long time, visits Rome and meets with his son. The two never had a close relationship, as the father was constantly away as a merchant during Marcello's youth. They visit a nightclub together where Marcello introduces his father to the French dancer Fanny. Fanny finds Marcello's father likable and invites him to her apartment. Later that night, however, the father had a fit of weakness, whereupon Fanny asked Marcello for help. Marcello wants to keep his weakened father with him in Rome for another day, but he refuses and has already ordered the taxi to the train station with which he will travel back to the Italian province.

Marcello meets his friend Nico, who is now engaged to a nobleman and invites him to his castle. At the rather sleepy party, Marcello also meets Maddalena again. She asks him if Marcello wants to marry her, he answers with a confession of love without answering her question. Maddalena lets herself be seduced by another man and his confession of love goes nowhere. Marcello turns back to the other party guests who are visiting an uninhabited castle and seduces an American. The nobility are slightly disappointed that Marcello and the press are no longer interested in them. The next morning, the tired party guests meet the prince's mother, who walks rigidly to the mass with some priests.

An argument between Emma and Marcello escalates during a car trip: She confesses her love to him again, but he is annoyed by her mothering and care. Emma criticizes that he is now on the wrong track. He throws her out of the car and leaves her alone on the empty country road, but picks her up again later. The two are lying in bed, somewhat reconciled, when Marcello receives a phone call with terrible news: Steiner killed his two children and then himself in the absence of his wife. Marcello is dismayed by the terrible end of his role model, the police are puzzling over the motive. When Steiner's wife arrives in Rome at noon without knowledge of the incident, a pack of tactless reporters and photographers greets them. Marcello and the police superintendent have to educate them about the tragedy.

Marcello's acquaintance Nadia is celebrating the divorce from her extremely wealthy husband Riccardo with friends in a country house of her husband. She performs a striptease to the song Patricia . A now completely disoriented Marcello tries to encourage the party guests to an orgy and insults some of those present. Riccardo appears and makes sure that the party comes to an end. Some of the partygoers go to the beach at dawn. There a dead, terrible and primeval-looking creature was washed into the fishermen's nets. The waitress Paola is also on the beach, separated from Marcello by an estuary, and yells something to him. Marcello, however, cannot hear them and finally leaves the beach with the other party guests.


Fellini got the inspiration for the film from the photographer Tazio Secchiaroli . He became known through a snapshot of King Faruk of Egypt in the Café de Paris on Via Veneto. The monarch had knocked over a table in anger at intrusive photographers. By advising Fellini on La dolce vita , Secchiaroli came to film photography and became the personal photographer of Mastroianni and Sophia Loren .

The dress that Ekberg wears in the film in the role of Sylvia, exhibited in the studio in Cinecittà

The film is set on many well-known streets and places in Rome: At the beginning of the film, the Bell 47 helicopters fly over the Aqua Claudia . Marcello and Maddalena meet the prostitutes in the Piazza del Popolo , Sylvia drives with the producer and his followers on the Via Appia Antica and visits St. Peter's Basilica a . v. m. A large part of the film takes place in Via Vittorio Veneto . Since Fellini only got permission to film for two o'clock at night, he had the street rebuilt in detail in Cinecittà . In the modern Basilica di San Giovanni Bosco (consecrated in 1959) Marcello surprisingly meets his old friend Steiner, who invites him to his home. In Steiner's house there is still life by Giorgio Morandi , who painted his pictures with academic rigor in asceticism and debated Steiner with Marcello. The film was also shot outside Rome: In Fregene , he is looking for peace and quiet in a beach trattoria , where he meets Paola, a homesick girl from Perugia .

The film wistfully touches on the end of Italian neorealism , which has already lost its meaning. When the reporter asked the actress Sylvia whether Italian neorealism was dead, the interpreter did not even translate the question, but gave the diva the answer in order not to overwhelm her: "He's alive!" A swipe at the sandal films is the globetrotter “Franky”, who grew a Caesar's beard to play in Ben Hur .

In the scene of the festival in the Caracalla thermal baths , the then unknown Adriano Celentano had one of his first film appearances as a rock musician. The singer Nico also had her first appearance here at the party in the Villa Lante al Gianicolo with the della Rovere , before she became known in New York with " The Velvet Underground ". At that time she was very well known as a mannequin and was considered one of the most famous "supermodels" of her time. Many images are difficult to interpret. On the right side of the picture, nocturnal company can be seen leaving the old castle, the torso of the Belvedere , on which a bull's head is attached so that it looks like the Minotaur .

The final scene of the film, in which the drunken high society on the beach of Fregene watches at dawn how fishermen are pulling the body of a huge dead fish ashore, alludes to an unsolved criminal case, the murder of Wilma Montesi , in Italy in the 1950s Years and in which the "upper class" seemed to be involved in a scandalous way. Marcello meets Paola again. Corresponding to the opening scene, two spheres meet again that perceive but do not understand each other because the sea is so loud. Marcello Rubini now also belongs to the idle world, but he did not become happy. He just waves to Paola in silence.

For Fellini, Mastroianni and Anouk Aimée, the film was the breakthrough to an international career. Anita Ekberg, who was previously best known for her sandal films, did not shoot any films worth mentioning afterwards. It was not until Fellini's 1986 film Intervista that she and Mastroianni revived the success of La dolce vita .


The German dubbed version was created in 1960 for the cinema premiere based on a dialogue book by Alfred Kirschner and directed by Erika Streithorst .

role actor German Dubbing voice
Marcello Rubini Marcello Mastroianni Wolfgang Kieling
Sylvia Anita Ekberg Marianne Wischmann
Maddalena Anouk Aimée Eleanor Noelle
Emma Yvonne Furneaux Marion Degler
Steiner Alain Cuny Friedrich Schoenfelder
Marcello's father Annibale Ninchi Klaus W. Krause
Robert Lex Barker Peter Pasetti
Nadia Nadia Gray Marianne Kehlau
Nico Nico Margot Leonard
Police commissioner Giulio Girola Erich Ebert
Director Alfredo Rizzo Erich Ebert


source rating
Rotten tomatoes

In this film Fellini reveals both the phenotypical media apparatus and the decadent , meaningless life of affluent society. But the “upper class” only serves as an exaggerated example. She is the tip of the iceberg of a whole society of consumer-minded, selfish, and superficial people who try to forget by indulging in the intoxication of life and shirking their obligations.

At the end of the film, it becomes very clear what the depicted life is a reaction to when, at the sight of the stranded fish (a ray lying on its back), the question is raised: “Where is the front and back here?” And Marcello calls the Umbrian girl Paola can only answer: “I cannot understand you, I cannot understand you, the sea.” It is the reaction to a confused, incomprehensible and disoriented life. And so Marcello answers the question about the possible reason for Steiner's suicide: "Maybe he did it because he was afraid [...], maybe he was afraid of this life, of the future."

  • Lexicon of international film : "The film traces the fascination of evil with the greatest sensitivity and conjures it up with a high, but not always equivalent, style."
  • Prisma Online: “Fellini's portrait of society, staged with biting humor, is a classic in film art. The viewer of the film accompanies the scandal sheet journalist through episodes that show the 'sweet life' of Rome for seven days and nights. The whole thing turns out to be a broad and brilliantly designed masterpiece. The scene in which Anita Ekberg climbs into the fountain called shocked censors on the scene. "
  • Frankfurter Rundschau , Frankfurt am Main, 1986: "An epoch-making film, the mosaic portrait of a society in the stagnation of a transition and transition [...], La dolce vita 'is an often satirical criticism of the emptiness of the' sweet life ' , the unacknowledged fear of life. "
  • Adolf Heinzlmeier and Berndt Schulz in Lexicon "Films on TV" (extended new edition). Rasch and Röhring, Hamburg 1990, ISBN 3-89136-392-3 , p. 793: “Splendid colors of pictures about the loose customs of the Roman crowd. [...] The film that disavowed Roman society caused a scandal when it was first shown; famous the scene in which Anita Ekberg bathes in the Fontana di Trevi. [...] Cinema classics. "(Rating: 3½ stars = exceptional)

Aftermath and Influences

Fellini created the figure of the paparazzo , Rubini's photographer, based on the model of Secchiaroli. It was named after the hotel owner Coriolano Paparazzo from Catanzaro , of the Guide By the Ionian Sea by George Gissing is mentioned. Fellini had read the book while preparing for the film and was intrigued by the name. Through the film, paparazzo became synonymous in many languages ​​with the tabloid photographer who haunted celebrities.

In the film Divorce in Italian (1961), also with Mastroianni, a village community watches the film. Woody Allen's Celebrity - Beautiful. Rich. Famous. (1998), in which Kenneth Branagh dives into the exclusive nightlife of Manhattan as a writer, is clearly influenced by La Dolce Vita . In Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation some allusions to the film can be seen, for example there is a similarly empty press conference with a film star in the hotel and the main characters are watching The Sweet Life on TV. The 2013 film La Grande Bellezza - The Great Beauty by Paolo Sorrentino is a homage to Fellini's classic film and also tells of the nightlife of Roman society.

Bob Dylan mentions La Dolce Vita in his 1964 song Motorpsycho Nightmare . The film gave the title for the Italo disco hit Dolce Vita (1983) by Ryan Paris .

In 2006, American director Michael Lucas produced a pornographic remake of the film entitled Michael Lucas' La Dolce Vita Parts 1 & 2 , which is set in Manhattan rather than Rome . The film received numerous GayVN Awards , including Best Director, and was inducted into the GayVN Hall of Fame.


The sweet life was awarded the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1960 and won an Oscar for best costumes in 1962 . In 1961, the film won the New York Film Critics Circle award for best foreign film and three awards from Sindacato Nazionale Giornalisti Cinematografici Italiani ( Marcello Mastroianni as best actor, original screenplay, production designer). The French actress Anouk Aimée was also awarded the Étoile de Cristal for best actress.

Web links

Commons : The sweet life  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files


  • Tullio Kezich (Ed.): La Dolce Vita di Federico Fellini (=  Dal soggetto al Film 13, ZDB -ID 763433-x ). Cappelli editore, Bologna 1960.
  • Tullio Kezich: Federico Fellini and the Making of La Dolce Vita. In: Cineaste. Vol. 31, No. 1, 2005, ISSN  0009-7004 , pp. 8-14.
  • Alessia Ricciardi: The spleen of Rome. Mourning Modernism in Fellini's La Dolce Vita. In: Modernism / Modernity. Vol. 7, No. 2, 2000, ISSN  1071-6068 , pp. 201-219.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Frank Rother: Tazio Secchiaroli / Giovanna Bertelli: Marcello Mastroianni. In: (Bayerischer Rundfunk). July 16, 2006, archived from the original on November 27, 2007 ; accessed on December 27, 2014 .
  2. ^ Nico & Velvet Underground ( Memento from February 19, 2005 in the Internet Archive ), Radio Bremen, October 14, 2005.
  3. The dead woman on the beach . Faz.Net. April 27, 2006. Retrieved September 19, 2010.
  4. ^ "La Dolce Vita" at the German dubbing index
  5. a b The Sweet Life at Rotten Tomatoes , accessed November 10, 2014
  6. a b The sweet life at Metacritic , accessed on November 10, 2014
  7. The sweet life in the Internet Movie Database (English)
  8. The sweet life in the lexicon of international filmsTemplate: LdiF / Maintenance / Access used .
  9. Axel Hacke : And what do I do now? , Tagesspiegel, Berlin, September 5, 2004.
  10. Wiktionary: paparazzo (English)  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
  11. Erika Lust : X - Porn for women. Wilhelm Heyne Verlag, Munich 2009, p. 185. ISBN 978-3-453-67572-8
  12. Michael Lucas, "La Dolce Vita" Sets GAYVN Record on, February 26, 2007; Retrieved January 18, 2015.