Thoughts on La Dolce Vita and 81/2

13/7/2022 • 4 min • normaal is saai genoeg

La Dolce Vita is the beautiful struggle; the sort of Greek heroic where life is defined as humanity—the meaningful—as opposed to our merely brief existence of moving flesh. It is of the creative struggle of a writer, named Marcello, between high culture and the popular tabloids reporting the most mundane details of the false icons we worship; a struggle, one which our human (arguably scumbag) Marcello lost; he gave up after his friend died. And yet, a struggle of great beauty, one where hell is as aspirational as heaven. Ending in the attempt to orchestrate the ultimate giant orgy between friends to end all others; because we are all but ugly beasts in the end, but we should do it in style.

In another world we have a Marcello named Guido. In this 81/2th film he directed in his career did he face the ugliest of struggles: that of being buried down the deep dark well of creative depression. He’s on a long invisible leash the length of the entire Italian peninsula. Sets have been build, actors and actresses have been cast (sort of,) and millions have been spent. But there is no script, no story, and the director is depleted, his creative brain a vegetable on a deathbed, sipping on the IV drip. Depression, in fact, is not related at all to sadness. This is because sadness is a feeling, the counterpoint to happiness. To be sad is to be human. But to be depressed is to be one with an empty void, the lack of feeling at all: no happiness, sadness, anger, or fear. Without feeling is to live without meaning, and why live at all?

La Dolce Vita, as the name suggests, is life as a romantic. Not, in terms of actually having relationships, but in the Fine Arts sense of the word, to either have meaning and purpose in one's role, or the very enjoyment of living by the moment without care of the future. Yet, it’s portrayed with a sense of realism; those long ultrawide shots hide nothing of what is happening. You are a mere spectator watching these vignettes, these little snapshots of people’s lives with binoculars.

81/2 is hell; the in-between; the gaps of time and space of nothingness. This fact is one told trough lies, like all the great and—in this case, ironically—most meaningful stories. Sometimes he flies away and sees his estranged father in a maybe-dream, the unnaturally bright spa resort with the most famous of Wagner, dragged across like a prisoner of war to the giant spaceship; he dreamt reality for us.

La Dolce Vita remains to this day my most favorite film of all time, because it is the Romantic life I wish I had, a lie of a story told trough "realism." 81/2 is a truth of a story told trough fantasy. It is what I—or most people for that matter—actually have. We’re not great, we’re the shit and scum of our Mother Earth that do terrible things to each other, and all that is precious with the Earth itself. In the end, nothing really matters, and to think otherwise is to be egoistic and arrogant.

— Laurens Spangenberg