The reason La dolce vita, Fellini-Satyricon and Roma may constitute a “Rome Trilogy” is, first of all, they all take place in Rome. Second, they are all about life in Rome, and each one takes a view of it in some way that is different. Each one though plays off ideas from the others.
La Dolce Vita is about modern life in Rome. Even though it was the first one made, it is the most modern of the three. It follows the central characters dealing with the most modern-day problems, like the concept of celebrity, and being unfulfilled in one’s work. The second one is specifically about Rome's past, and how Rome came to be. It concerns how Rome was, and how Rome essentially came to be. The third one, Roma, is also about Rome's past in a number of ways, but it is also about how Rome's past and Rome's future and present intermix with each other. It is about the past, a new world coming in, and the old world going out.
If you take it as a trilogy, in a weird way, Fellini-Satyricon should probably be watched first. Then, Roma, and then La Dolce Vita. They work together as a trilogy because Fellini-Satyricon is about the alien world that was the past, and even though we recognize some of it, it is not us. It does not feel like us anymore.
Fellini-Satyricon is the past. It is about the time when Roma was the greatest and most powerful state in the world. The theme is that Rome is not that anymore. The past exists only in fragments, and the fragments are things we people no longer recognize. La Dolce Vita is essentially the soulless new world, the soulless new life. In all three there always seems to be something miserable happening in the background. There is a great scene in Roma. There is a vaudeville show, and there is singing and dancing, but then a government official comes on stage and declares that the Americans have landed in Sicily, but not to worry, that Italy will fight them back.
The three seem together to deliver a message, that the past was never really as good as we think the past was. There is a part in Roma where he films the young hippie kids conjugating, and he essentially says to look at them, that they are not worried about the everyday things that we worry about, and that maybe that is for the best. There appears to be a fundamental idea that we are getting better as a people
There is a pronounced change in Fellini’s cinematic style from one film to another. In La Dolce Vita the shots are mainly in the city, following the characters from location to location. La dolce vita gives the impression of a really long day, even though there are different night and day shots. It doesn’t really differentiate when one part ends and another begins. There are confined rooms, and things feel small. In Fellini-Satyricon the filming is more in the countryside; it is more of an epic style, and it emphasizes space. It’s storytelling is structured in a way that makes it feel fractured.