La Dolce Vita (1960)

To commemorate the life of Swedish actress Anita Ekberg (29 September 1931 – 11 January 2015), we take a look at the BBFC file for La Dolce Vita (1960).

La Dolce Vita is Federico Fellini's classic comedy drama about a philandering journalist (Marcello Mastroianni) and his search for love amongst the high society of postwar Rome, including with an heiress, Maddalena (Anouk Aimée) and a movie star, Sylvia (Anita Ekberg). 

The film was originally classified X for cinema release in 1960, meaning no persons under 16 could be admitted to screenings. The film next entered the BBFC for cinema re-release in October 1987 and video release in 1989. The Examiner reports from 1987, available here, note the visual discretion of the film as potentially PG-level, although the despairing tone of the film and the suicide attempt by one character, of which only the aftermath is shown, was considered more suitably placed at 15. 

Another aspect of the film requiring a 15 rating was a party scene involving a partial strip tease by a woman (Nadia Gray), even though no nudity is actually shown. The Examiner also notes the 'gay element' of the party, indicating now outdated views on public perceptions of homosexuality (BBFC Classification Guidelines today make no distinction between the sexuality of characters or their relationships). The language in the film again guided Examiners towards a 15 rating for uses of 'whore' and 'slut’, plus milder bad language including 'bloody’ and 'son of a bitch'. 

Although the BBFC classified the film 15, the posters used for the promotion of La Dolce Vita carried the old BBFC X rating, prompting public confusion and forcing the BBFC to write a letter for publication in the London Evening Standard, confirming that teenagers of 15 and over could be admitted to cinemas to see the film.

In 2013 the film was submitted again for cinema re-release and classified 12A for moderate sex references, language, violence and suicide scenes.