Luisa’s first encounter with Guido when she comes to visit him at the hotel encapsulates her role in Guido’s life and in the film. The scene opens amid the opulence that has come to characterize Guido’s lifestyle: a flock of women in feathers and pearls parts for a moment, and Luisa emerges, a standout in a plain white shirt, boyish haircut, starkly framed glasses, and minimal makeup. Compared to the painted and bubbly Carla, the morosely pretentious Gloria, and the tortured French actress, Luisa is a relief with her subtle beauty and discriminating sensibility. Luisa’s detached observation of the luxury auctions and jewelry boutiques around her implies that the glamour of Guido’s life doesn’t impress her. When Guido realizes that he is in Luisa’s presence, he transforms. No longer a confidently clowning hotshot director, he is nervous, unsure of how to approach his own wife. When Luisa turns around and recognizes him, her somber expression transforms into a glowing smile, and Guido, too, appears unabashedly delighted. The couple exchanges pleasantries warmly, each loving contact—the kisses, Guido’s guiding arm—soft and slow. Both seem immediately contented by the simple presence of the other. Here and throughout the film, even during quarrels, they are undoubtedly in love with each other.
If Luisa, then, is Guido’s true love, she also represents a unique truth amid the whirlwind of deception that wracks Guido’s world. The actresses that want parts in Guido’s movies speak only to please him, and Guido’s mistress Carla is eager to transform herself to suit his immediate sensual desires. Likewise, Guido’s production team, excepting Daumier, seems eager to support anything he gives them, no matter its artistic validity, because they expect it to be a success. The press prints whatever he says, only too happy to have recorded his precious words. Surrounded by these legions of yes-men, Guido’s tendency to fabricate spins out of control. Only Luisa cares for him enough to tell him the truth—that his movie is a lie. When Guido resolves his creative struggle at the end of the film and convinces Luisa to join his circus line, it appears as if she has resigned herself to accepting Guido’s noncommittal lifestyle. However, considering Luisa’s repeated attacks on the veracity of the film, we cannot be sure whether she truly was so easily compliant.