Life Is Beautiful
Starring: Roberto Benigni
Director: Roberto Benigni
Awards: 3 Oscars (Best Actor, Best Music, Best Foreign Language Film)
An open-minded Jewish book store owner in 1939 Italy becomes apart of the Holocaust with his family. By using wit, humor and his imagination, he protects his son from the dangers around the camp. It’s a touching story that has more than one plot twists.
I’m going to be honest, I don’t generally like foreign films. I’m more open to them now, but whenever I walked into the living room and my dad was watching an old Polish film on the TV, I would just leave. I wasn’t interested, because I didn’t see the point of them. So, I walked into this film with a fresh mind, but still begrudgingly.
I have to say, it was a great film. I honestly loved it. I enjoyed the fact that it was in Italian, because it’s what made it natural. If it was in English, it would have had a completely different effect. And Since the concentration camp, which is the main area of the film, is in Germany, they all speak German and not Italian. This is a pretty key point of the film, and they dance around it a few times.
It starts out very happy and uplifting, with two Italian guys driving through Italy. They stop at a farm and Guido (Robert Benigni) runs into Dora (Nicoletta Braschi), his later wife. They have a child, Joshua and they live a happy family life. It’s cute.
Then everything changes. Dora comes home to see her house ransacked and she knows that her husband and son were taken and are on the train to the concentration camps. She quickly follows, and demands to be let on the train.
Throughout the story, Guido tries to protect Joshua from realizing that they’re in a concentration camp by making him think it’s a game for his birthday. The first person to 1000 points wins a real tank. Guido puts himself in risky situations to ensure his son’s safety.
It’s not really a comedy, but there are some really funny points. One of my favorites (which might be a little screwed up) is Joshua hates taking showers. One scene is a cute family scene where Joshua refuses to take a shower. Later on, Joshua runs to his dad because he refused to take a “shower” at the concentration camp. It was actually really funny, because he saved his life without knowing it.
Guido is the most lovable character because he never worries. He’s always happy, or putting on a face for his son or wife. He was definitely the happiest prisoner there, which is why he was able to keep his son safe throughout the war.
I remember I “watched” this film for an acting class when I was 12. I put watched in quotes because I didn’t actually watch it. I remember the scene where he translates the commanders orders from German to Italian, but he just makes it all up. It’s because I didn’t really understand the context, and that’s why I liked it this time around. I’m very bad at history, so a Google search was made to get some proper context.
Overall, it’s a very loving and touching story that was greatly executed. It was unrealistic, but that doesn’t really matter. It’s a movie, and it’s playing off the real tragedies that happened during World War II.
A word from my dad:
This film was a huge hit when it came out, winning Best Actor and Best Foreign Film Oscars. I was also nominated for Best Picture. There are some that found it sort of sentimental and sappy but I found it touching. The plot is certainly rather far-fetched but I believe that they describe it as a fable. It takes place in Italy during World War 2 and the main character is Jewish but if that is the backdrop, the story is a little more intimate. The situation and ending while certainly implausible serves a greater purpose than realism.