Jane arrives in the city, with her camera in hand, eager for excitement. Her life back home in America, while not unpleasant, is certainly not the one she envisioned. She is determined to make the most of Venice ("Like it? I've got to! I've come such a long way..."). And the way Lean's camera lingers over shots of the city– letting us soak it all in, willing us to fall in love with it–we, like Jane, can't help but see the beauty of the place. Tourism in the city doubled after the film was released. Lean himself was so enchanted with the city that he made it his second home. I mean, just look at the view from Jane's window in the hotel she's staying:
She is so moved by it, that she tells the hotel proprietress, "Grazie...For THIS" as she extends her hand over the whole of the city. So much of the film is sunlit shots of gorgeous Venetian sites that the city becomes a character unto itself. Any one of them a picture postcard for best shot. But the shot I've chosen isn't one of the city itself, but one that represents all that the city promised for Jane–a wish come true. Just maybe not the way she imagined.
Among the most gorgeous cities in the world, she soon finds herself feeling alone. Even the most beautiful of places can become lonely without someone to share in your happiness. Hepburn does a wonderful job of conveying Jane's loneliness. Depression can come across as dull on screen or worse, self-pitying (I'm looking at you Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love), but we never feel that Jane feels sorry for herself. Hepburn still gives her a spark that hope is not lost, it's just tinged with a bit of disappointment.
She soon meets a handsome Italian shopkeeper who starts to take an interest in her. Reluctant at first (you can sense that Jane has been hurt by love before), she resists his advances. But soon finds herself thinking of him and the two begin to spend time together. It rejuvenates Jane who finds herself wandering the city without her camera and getting make-overs! (I do love in the make-over scene that we see her getting her hair done, but it ends up looking exactly as it did before. A part of her still can't let go...) She soon faces reality when she discovers that the man is married with children. He tells her that he is separated and after a verbal brawl, she discovers that the connection is too strong to give him up completely. She knows it can't last, but is willing to live for the moment and give into a passion she might not normally have surrendered to. As she gives in to his advances, fireworks light up the sky and she drops a single shoe on the balcony. It becomes a symbol of her fairy tale. Like Cinderella, the magic might all end at midnight, but right now she is apart of it. It won't end in happily ever after, but the memory of the moment will last her a lifetime: