This weekend we returned to Italy – in a virtual way – by seeing the Italian movie The Great Beauty (La Grande Belleza). It was a thought-provoking movie and today I want to share a bit about it, so I revisited Italy in my photographs as well, finding an image from Rome to share with you.
The Great Beauty tells the story of Jep Gambarella, a 65-year-old writer living in Rome. For forty years, after publishing his first and only novel, he’s been in Rome living the “high life” of the beautiful and rich. With the passing of his 65th birthday, he starts to reevaluate how he’s been living his life and why he’s never written a follow up to his one great novel.
For forty years, he’s been seeking the great beauty, the thing that will inspire him to write again, and has yet to find it. He is driven to revisit places and relationships, some by choice and others by circumstance, seeing things in a different light. Ultimately, he comes full circle, accepting where he is, and understanding that he already has what he needs in his life to write the next novel.
Throughout the movie, there is only a little bit of internal narration, and most of his evaluation is played out through his interactions and choices. Things aren’t always spelled out for us, the viewer, and that can be confusing. There are moments of surreality thrown in here and there, and I found myself scratching my head. But after the fact, as I thought about the movie as a whole, it all worked together in the end.
Looking at what was playing, I was intrigued when I saw it was an Italian movie and I was sold when I saw the trailer – it is visually stunning. I especially loved the view of early morning Rome that Jep gives us as he wanders home from his night exploits. Unfortunately, reading the subtitles meant that I didn’t get the full visual impact of the movie. I was paying attention to the words so I could follow the story. Not only that, I was listening to the Italian and comparing it to the English subtitles, trying to match up what I knew. It would be easier, for me, to watch a movie in a language I had no familiarity with than Italian. I plan to see it again, now that I know the story, and really watch the movie instead of reading it.
I share this movie with you today because it made me think. I’m not sure everyone will like the movie – it contains drugs and nudity and a lifestyle most of us wouldn’t choose – but it will make you think. Everyone might take something a little bit different from it, but what I took away was this: We don’t need to seek some grand thing in our lives, some overarching purpose. We need to look for the small moments of beauty and grace that come to us. It is treasuring these small moments, through the course of a life, which add up to the great beauty.
It’s worth a watch. If you go see it, come back and share your thoughts on it here.