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Sometimes at night the darkness and silence weighs upon me...
Qualche volta, la notte, quest'oscurità, questo silenzio, mi pesano.

Peace frightens me; perhaps I fear it most of all.
E' la pace che mi fa paura. Temo la pace più di ogni altra cosa:

I feel it is only a façade hiding the face of hell.
mi sembra che sia soltanto un'apparenza , e nasconda l'inferno.

I think, 'What is in store for my children tomorrow?'
Pensa a cosa vedranno i miei figli domani...

'The world will be wonderful', they say. But from whose viewpoint? if one phone call could announce the end of everything?
Il mondo sarà meraviglioso, dicono. Ma da che punto di vista, se basta uno squillo di telefono ad annunciare la fine di tutto?

We need to live in a state of suspended animation like a work of art, in a state of enchantment.
Bisogna di vivere fuore dalle passione e altri sentimenti nell'armonia che c'è nell'opera d'arte reuscita, in quell'ordino incantato.

We have to succeed in loving so greatly that we live outside of time, detached...
Vodremmo reuscire al amarci tanto, da vivere fuore del tempo, distacati...


These are the memorable words of Steiner to Marcello in the movie La Dolce Vita.

Soon after, Steiner will kill his two young children and commit suicide in a seemingly unexplainable act of folly: he was a successful man with a loving family, talent, money and a large group of friends.

Much more than Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg dipping in the Fontana di Trevi or any other gorgeous shots of the hedonistic Roman society of the 60's, this scene is the central element of Fellini's complicated and powerful masterpiece...

It opens the door on a very controversial and infinitely debatable issue: does Steiner's utter despair in humanity somewhat justify his act in light of a certain pity for his own children and the world ahead of them... or is he just a cold-blooded monster unable to face reality who takes innocent lives out of cowardice?

While of course the movie does not fall short of showing the wordless despair of the mother and the state of shock of everybody else, it had also taken the time to show how deeply Steiner adored his children, how much he loved his family and his friends, making him one of the only lovable character in the movie, somebody who truly cared about the fate of Marcello, offering him sincere advice and help... So it is clear that Steiner is not a monster, he is maybe the only character with a hint of moral in this cynical depiction of decadent society.

Still, it is hard to tell whether he acted on a disturbing impulse of religious faith or out of a secular fear of man-made apocalypse. He is depicted as running a fine line between both cultural trends, seemingly in good terms with the church but also a rather progressive, enlightened man.

In the end, nobody can tell his real reasons, and the movie certainly does not try, but this is probably the most symbolic moment, where Marcello reach a point of equilibrium between carefree happiness and anxious concern about the meaning of his life.

By killing his children and himself, Steiner also irremediably eliminate all possibility of redemption for Marcello who finally engages into a spiral of meaningless partying, disabused conversations and pathetic attempts to shock his cynical entourage...

At any rate, this small excerpt proves that director Federico Fellini and writer Ennio Flaiano were not only amazing satirists, mercilessly chronicling the absurdity of this century through beautiful imagery, but were also able to convey the deepest, darkest of existential angst in all but a few lines of dialogue...

This dialogue is also quoted in The Divine Comedy's song The Certainty Of Chance from the album Fin De Siecle. (thanks XWiz)

The translation above is not quite literal, it is a mere transcription of the English subtitles (thanks Gritchka for pointing out typos in the Italian text)

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