Life is Beautiful
Details: (M), 116 mins, Italy, English
Synopsis: Guido (Roberto Benigni) is a young Jewish man with a childlike innocence and imagination who dreams of owning a book shop. With his poet friend, Ferruccio, Guido comes to the Tuscan town of Arrezzo seeking fortune and romance, ignoring the growing anti-Semitism and the Fascist government. Guido falls in love with Dora (Nicoletta Braschi), a beautiful young school teacher and a fairy tale romance ensues. Four years later, in the happiest year of their lives with a beautiful little boy, the fairy tale shatters when Guido and his son are sent to a concentration camp three months before the war's end. Out of love, Dora deports herself on the same train. Now in a nightmare world, Guido must use his bold imagination and every ounce of his indefatigable spirit to save those he loves.
An impressive, thought-provoking experience...
Roberto Benigni`s tremendously ambitious comedy deals with that most challenging of subjects, the Holocaust. The first half of the film, which is set in a Tuscan town in the late 30s, is hilarious as newcomer Guido, played by the director, finds work as waiter in a smart hotel and falls hopelessly in love with Dora, Nicoletta Braschi, the local schoolteacher. A few years later they`re married with a son Guido adores: but Guido`s a Jew, and when he and his boy are interned in a concentration camp, he tries to alleviate the horror for his son by pretenting it`s all a game...
This is very tricky territory, but not without precedent - Chaplin made fun of Hitler and the Nazis in The Great Dictator - a film which the first half of Life Is Beautiful resembles - and Ernst Lubitsch, a Jew, dared to make a farce about the occupation of Poland in 1942 with To Be Or Not To Be. Benigni is a brilliant comedian, and a brave one - Life Is Beautiful has plenty of classical slapstick comedy, but Benigni isn`t content with making us laugh at the pomposity and stupidity of the fascists - he wants to jolt us into taking a fresh approach to the crime of genocide - a tall order for a comedy. I`m not sure that he pulls it off - above all, the horror is missing. But for many this will be an impressive, thought-provoking experience.
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