By Stefanie Sybens (Belgium)
La Grande Bellezza has won the Oscar for best foreign language film! It has been a long time ago since the Italian Cinema was rewarded with an Oscar. This may seem as a bit of a contradiction since Italy, France and Germany were far more popular/productive than America – until WWII that is. After WWII the European Cinema suffered economically and had to choose America as its supplier for movies. Since then, Hollywood is our leading force and continues to feed us with tons of films.
If we take a look at the Italian Cinema, we have some beauties waiting for us! After WWII (ironically), Italy showed us a projection of life in a beautiful way. Italian neorealism was represented by directors such as Visconti (Ossessione), Rossellini (Paisà), De Sica (Bicycle Thieves > such a beauty) and Fellini (La Dolce Vita). Moreover, The Spaghetti Western had reached great popularity in Italy and internationally as well.
Was it a necessity that the Italian Cinema got appreciated again or were the nominees for best foreign language movie rather weak? I have to answer YES to both questions. La Grande Bellezza zooms in on modern society and how the individual gets lost in it. This connection between the individual and society provides us with a framework of feeling disconnected. This individuality is being forced upon us so the main character’s (Jep Gambardella) bitterness feels rather satisfying. Jep can be compared with Fitzgerald’s creation of Nick Carraway (The Great Gatsby) where he says:
“I wanted to get out and walk eastward toward the park through the soft twilight, but each time I tried to go I became entangled in some wild, strident argument which pulled me back, as if with ropes, into my chair. Yet high over the city our line of yellow windows must have contributed their share of human secrecy to the casual watcher in the darkening streets, and I was him too, looking up and wondering. I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.” – The Great Gatsby
For me, La Grande Bellezza by Sorrentino righteously deserved to win. Its style provided us with the focus on the city which was also heavily focused upon in Modernist literature. Rome and all its great, different facets were presented to us in combination with the fragmentation of the individual. The main character is an observer who shares some great characteristics with Walt Whitman’s poetry where the voyeur is a reference point.
The Italian Cinema has always found a way of bringing us back to reality which is highly appreciated since Hollywood’s spectacular movies bring us so very high in the sky. And I meant that literally: Gravity, are you serious?!