La Grande Bellezza

by Alexandra

Yesterday afternoon I went to the Curzon cinema in Mayfair to see La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty). Since watching The Dreamers I’ve liked the idea of sitting on the front row, so I went to the front and sat in seat 14, just because I’m moving to Rome on the 14th of September. Silly, but it felt like a nice symbolic thing to do.

The timing of the film’s release in England is perfect – the week before I leave for Rome. I don’t know if I’d rate it as highly as some of the critics, and it did feel slightly too long, but it’s beautifully filmed and well-acted. Having just said it felt too long, I have to admit that I stayed right till the end of the credits (a slow journey down the Tiber) because I couldn’t tear myself away. After the curtains had closed on the final image of the Ponte Sant’Angelo, it felt strange emerging from the cinema and walking through cold, grey London streets. As much as I love London, I felt almost resentful, like I shouldn’t be there at all.

I think anyone who loves Rome would have to love La Grande Bellezza, at least a little bit, if only for superficial reasons. It was wonderful to be reminded of the places I already know and love, like the Baths of Caracalla or Palazzo Barberini, as well as being shown a glimpse of places I have yet to explore, such as the Villa Medici. But I feel like the latter is bound to be a disappointment after the film, as I won’t be able to sneak into the garden in the middle of the night…

What I liked most about La Grande Bellezza, apart from the cinematography, was the way it captured the frustration of loving cities. No matter how much you love it, or how long you live there, your experience will ultimately be defined by a small area, or a small group of people. You can’t have everything, and you can’t be everywhere at once. As Jep discovers, you can’t spend your life going to parties and also be a great writer. I’ve spent years exploring London, but there are still huge areas I know nothing about. Sometimes I find it hard deciding which turning to take, because walking down one street means leaving another street unexplored.

I doubt my social life will be anything like Jep’s, and in many ways I wouldn’t want it to be, but with any film or book that gives a glimpse into someone else’s life, there’s always the “What if…?” It’s frustrating to think that you have one life, and you only have time for a certain amount of people. In a lifetime, I don’t think you can get to know more than a handful of cities intimately.

I’ve almost finished packing, and two days from now, I’ll be on the plane, about to start my life in Rome. Sometimes I feel like I’ve only started to scrape the surface of London, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens in Rome…