Paolo Sorrentino is reputed for his dazzling aesthetics, whether the viewer is participating in an all-out orgy with Berlusconi in Loro 2018 or riding shotgun along the Neapolitan seaside in (É stata la mano de dio) The Hand of God 2021. However, it is possible that such imagery takes away from the central meanings of his film, something that really comes into play upon another watch. After winning the 2013 Oscar for Best Foreign Film, Sorrentino received critical acclaim for La Grande Bellezza, whose epigrammatic title translating to ‘The Great Beauty’ summarises the aesthetic pleasure we enjoy while watching the film. However, even more intricate as his shots of the Roman nightlife, is his establishment of philosophy within the film. James Hadland explores the Beauty of the Absurd in Sorrentino’s magnum opus.
In his masterpiece, La Grande Bellezza, director Paolo Sorrentino masterfully weaves together the themes of nostalgia, loss, and the absurdity of life, offering a profound meditation on the human condition. Through the eyes of Jep Gambardella, an aging writer disillusioned with his life and unfulfilled potential, we are taken on a journey through the underbelly of Rome, where the superficiality and emptiness of the city’s elite are juxtaposed against fleeting moments of beauty and connection.
GAMBARDELLA’S LIFE IS A TAPESTRY OF REGRETS AND MISSED OPPORTUNITIES, AS HE GRAPPLES WITH THE REALIZATION THAT HIS YOUTH AND THE PROMISE OF GREATNESS HAVE FADED AWAY. YET, AMIDST THE DESPAIR, HE FINDS SOLACE IN THE FLEETING BEAUTY HE ENCOUNTERS, THE REMNANTS OF A LIFE THAT WAS ONCE VIBRANT AND FULL OF PROMISE.
Sorrentino’s film is deeply rooted in the philosophy of absurdism, particularly the works of Albert Camus. Camus believed that life is inherently meaningless and devoid of any inherent purpose, and that we are confronted with the absurdity of existence. However, he also argued that it is this very absurdity that allows us to find freedom and meaning in our own lives.
In La Grande Bellezza, Sorrentino echoes Camus’ assertion, suggesting that it is through embracing the absurdity of life that we can truly appreciate its beauty and value. Gambardella, despite his existential angst, finds solace in the fleeting moments of beauty that punctuate his otherwise mundane existence.
The film’s title, La Grande Bellezza, translates to “The Great Beauty,” and it is this elusive concept that drives Gambardella’s quest. He searches for the “great beauty” in life, in art, in love, but he ultimately realizes that it is not a tangible thing to be found or possessed. Instead, it is a state of being, a way of perceiving the world with open eyes and an open heart.
In the film’s final moments, Gambardella stands on a balcony overlooking the vast expanse of the Roman sea, bathed in the moonlight. He is lost in a reverie, reliving memories of lost love and unfulfilled dreams. As he surrenders to the beauty of the moment, he finds a sense of peace and acceptance, realizing that the “great beauty” is not about achieving grand goals or finding external validation, but rather about embracing the beauty of the present moment, even in its imperfections and fragility.
La Grande Bellezza is a cinematic masterpiece that lingers long after the credits roll. It challenges us to confront our own mortality, to embrace the absurdity of life, and to find beauty in the simplest of moments. It is a film that celebrates the human condition in all its complexity and imperfection, reminding us that even in the face of loss and disillusionment, there is still beauty to be found in the world, if only we open our eyes and our hearts to it.
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