When I first watched The Great Beauty, I was continually asking myself, “What is this movie actually about?” Please don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t asking this because I was bored, far from it. I was intrigued. It was as though I could feel something of the meaning being conveyed, but I could not pinpoint what it was.
From the beginning, the viewer is given very few handholds to guide them through the narrative, but what results, I feel, is an amazingly immersive piece of work. We get to see life from the perspective of Jep Gambardella, who has long been at the top of the high life in Rome. But through his journeys and the relationships around him, we get glimpses of a very human search for meaning; a search for beauty. Sometimes this is revealed in very strange contexts; and at other times its effect is almost overwhelming as it reveals aspects of the strange, and at times contradictory, beauty in life.
The overall tone of the film carries within it this rhetorical effect. Almost every scene is so beautifully filmed that one could watch it just for its visual beauty. Not to mention its soundtrack which, with artists like the Kronos Quartet and Antonello Venditti, can also be appreciated on its own. Yet director Paulo Sorrentino, puts the picture, music and narrative together in such a tasteful way that always seems to serve the overall message of the film.
And if for nothing else – Jep Gambardella’s impeccable sense of style makes The Great Beauty worth watching. After watching it, I could no longer walk out my door wearing a shirt that wasn’t ironed. It lives up to its name, it is a beautiful film.
The Great Beauty [La grande bellezza] – Paolo Sorrentino (Indigo Film, 2013)