Tabloid journalist Marcello passes through the symbolic worlds of his three love interests in Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960).
The heiress Maddalena (played by Anouk Aimée) is tired of Rome. When she’s not at home lounging on her patio chaise, she can be found in the company of aristocrats who, like her, have experienced everything Rome has to offer. The castle: ball gowns, elegant evening capes, silk, diamonds, tiaras, shiny new cars, sunglasses for sake of mystery.
On her visit to the Eternal City, Italian men vie for the attention of Swedish American actress Sylvia (played by Anita Ekberg). She is charming, flirtatious, and skilled at making sure people have fun at parties. Her abusive fiancé Robert often interrupts her nonstop parade with unkind words and an abusive hand. The limelight: airplanes, cameras, flashing bulbs, music, eyeliner, fountain water.
Emma (played by Yvonne Furneaux) is Marcello’s emotionally fragile girlfriend. Her identity is intertwined with his existence; she loves him more than she loves herself. Emma dreams of married life and children with her boyfriend, but the feeling isn’t mutual. She often waits up for him at night, but when she’s kept waiting too long, her mind travels to a dark place. Purgatory: shadows on the walls of a still apartment, newspapers, telephone, remote dirt road, hospital bed, bed head, basic black dress.