The film starts with a to
Marcello seems always to be really near contact with things, and what is more, he appears to be really there, which makes him a great social reporter, but he senses he should be something more, a serious writer perhaps, as his brilliant-seeming bohemian friend suggests. But he isn’t even close to real feeling about his suicidal girlfriend. He is momentarily enchanted by the visiting American actress, the voluptuous Anita Ekberg, who is spontaneous and lustily primal but somehow not wicked, and he is attracted to the self-destructive Maddalena (Anouk Aimeé) who, in a poignant hall-of-whispers scene, begs him at a distance to marry her, then declares that she wants to love him and she wants to stay the same, a whore, and as she says this a man begins to make love to her and Marcello cannot find her in the maze of the old castle. The friend he so admired cracks and kills his children and himself—Marcello speculates he was afraid. Of somebody threatening him, a detective asks? No, of himself. He was right to be afraid; the event bears out the fear.
There is a scene with a distanced father, and a break-up scene, and a long decadent party, slightly silly and slightly brutal, and the last scene on the beach where the partygoers see a huge monster fish dragged in. A beautiful young girl, the innocent one, waves at Marcello. He’d met her at a café where he was trying to write and she was working. She beckons and calls, he says he can’t hear her, she signals again, he is called by the other partygoers, he shrugs eloquently and waves goodbye to her, as does she, still smiling. A farewell to beginnings.
There are lots of other things in the movie, too much to detail here. Afterwards, I was filled with a great sadness; the movie so eloquently expresses proximity without closeness, anomie, and despair, covered over with glamour and a hectic pace.