Start Submission

Reading: The Great Beauty: Italy’s inertia and neo-baroque aestheticism


A- A+
Alt. Display


The Great Beauty: Italy’s inertia and neo-baroque aestheticism


Enrica Picarelli

External Post-Doctoral Associate, Center for Comparative Studies, University of LisbonNone
X close


In an article published in the New York Times in the months preceding the U.S. premiere of Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty, Rachel Donadio looks at the movie as a commentary on the impasse that seems to paralyze Italy. Through this viewfinder, the journalist writes, Sorrentino sets the stage to have his say on ‘a culture that is blocked, resigned, embalmed in elegant decline’, where ‘inertia overwhelms all forward momentum’. As with other movies produced in the last two decades, most notably Nanni Moretti’s Il Caimano, The Great Beauty is part lament, part critique of all that is wrong with a country that the fiction identifies with its political leadership. Italian directors criticize the country’s pervasive atmosphere of inertia and decadence. Sorrentino has often remarked that although his films are not political per se, their representation is a critique of Italy’s current state of affairs. Contemporary history, that is, lies at the core of his artistic engagement. Yet, the baroque aestheticism of The Great Beauty reworks current tensions in an ambiguous fashion. This chapter employs journalistic sources and textual analysis of the film to inquire into what kind of cultural memory of contemporary Italy emerges from the scene. It uses Sorrentino’s neo-baroque aesthetic register and filmic philosophy of civic engagement as frameworks to explore history in the making. To this end, the essay refers to Patricia Pisters’ recent work in The Neuro-Image: A Deleuzian Film-Philosophy of Digital Screen Culture (2012).

How to Cite: Picarelli, E., 2015. The Great Beauty: Italy’s inertia and neo-baroque aestheticism. JOMEC Journal, (8), p.None. DOI:
Published on 01 Nov 2015.
Peer Reviewed


  • PDF (EN)