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Life Is (really) Beautiful

Updated on May 13, 2017

When, How and What.

Life Is Beautiful (original title: La vita è bella) is an Italian comedy-drama film released in 1997. It’s directed and co-written by Roberto Benigni. Starring Roberto Benigni and Nicoletta Braschi. The plot is inspired by the book In the End, I Beat Hitler and by Benigni’s father who spent two years in a German labour camp.

The film finally was a critical and financial success, despite criticisms of using the subject matter for comedic purposes. It also had many awards and nominations: It won two Oscars in the categories Best Actor and Best Foreign Film.

Cantarini and Benigni at the shooting
Cantarini and Benigni at the shooting


The story begins with Guido Orefice a young Jewish man who arrives to work in the city where his uncle Eliseo operates a restaurant. The plot is set in 1939, in the Kingdom of Italy. In this city he met Dora a young Italian girl. He sets up many "coincidental" incidents to show his interest in Dora. They are later married and have a son, Giosuè, and own a book store

When the WWII had already been broken out Guido and his family (except his wife) are forced onto a train and taken to a concentration camp. His wife, who couldn’t live without them, followed them in the train. From then on Guido starts telling to Giosuè that’s all a game. This is how he tried to protect his son by all this suffering and misery. Guido also tells to his son that whoever manages to win a tank would be the winner of the game. Despite his suffering and inhuman work in the camp he kept playing this game with his son.

The happy family the day they were led to the camp.
The happy family the day they were led to the camp.
The meaningful scene with the boy and the tank.
The meaningful scene with the boy and the tank.

Laughing Through the Pain...

It’s really difficult to me to understand how Benigni managed to create that magnificent work. If you try to examine and analyze his previous works you won’t find something like that. I have seen some films of his, older than that. But still nothing foreboded this film. Benigni is a talented comedian, for sure. The Il mostro film was quite funny and amusing. But it was a limited film. Life Is Beautiful is a limitless film. Through his scenes Benigni presented something different as compared with his old performances. He presented a deeply humanistic and touching character.

Every scene of the film is fifty percent of drama and fifty percent of comedy. This extremely successful analogy can’t be easily made. I can’t recall other films that succeed this with such accuracy. And this is a hymn to cinema. It reveals the power of the cinema. I don’t know many arts that are capable of doing this. So we have to thank Benigni for this… Except this satisfactory analogy there is a bit of romantic which splendidly blended in… It’s really unique.

As I said before the film was limitless. So Benigni was allowed to act with many ways. He also had space to do his slapstick comedy. And where it happened it was necessary. I could analyze his role for hours. Last but not least, he is one of the most rightful winners of Academy Awards for Best Actor Award. Of course the other cast is also perfect. Braschi was wonderful! They are completely matched! She is his principessa and as you watch the film she is the most beautiful woman. You can see it through his eyes, after all.

This wonderful film was accompanied by a very beautiful and melodic music theme. It helped a lot. It was more than suited! So you start thinking that some things just happen… Everything works for you sometimes. A brilliant slapstick comedian created this epic film which was accompanied by an epic music theme and by the perfectly suited cast. Don’t blame me. I am just trying to figure out what (and how it) happened...

If I have to choose some adjectives for the films then I would say: Touching. Joyful. Humanistic. Funny. Distressing. Wonderful. I am going to stop because the words may lose their meanings.

The moral of the story is very simple: Think and act positive whatever happens! Yeah, as simple as that. Whatever happens you have to keep dreaming. Whatever happens you have to keep fighting. In short, it is a hymn and a rhapsody of life. I think you already knew it. Its tittle itself says so! Life is beautiful!

Open Your Ears (and Your Heart)

I can’t skip and overlook the essential and teaching dialogues. Sometimes they get cleverly funny:

- Guido: What are your political views?
- Other man: [speaking to his two sons] Benito, Adolfo! Sit Down! Sorry Guido, what did you say?

- Giosué Orefice: [slowly reading signage on confectionery shopfront] "No Jews or dogs allowed". [turning to Guido]
- Giosué Orefice: Why aren't Jews or dogs allowed to go in?
- Guido: They just don't want Jews or dogs to go in. Everybody does what they want to, Joshua. [pointing at store ahead]
- Guido: There's a hardware store there. They don't let Spanish people or horses into his store. [pointing at another store]
- Guido: Further ahead, there's a drugstore. Yesterday, I was with a Chinese friend who had a kangaroo. I said, "May we?" "No, we don't want any Chinese or kangaroos here." They don't like them. What can I tell you?
- Giosué Orefice: We let everybody into our bookshop.
- Guido: No. From now on, we'll write it too. Is there anybody you don't like?
- Giosué Orefice: Spiders. What about you?
- Guido: [mock-seriously] I don't like Visigoths. Starting tomorrow we'll write: "No spiders and Visigoths allowed." I'm sick and tired of these Visigoths.

Let's be taught, too:

- Eliseo Orefice: You're serving. You're not a servant. Serving is a supreme art. God is the first servant. God serves men but he's not a servant to men.

In the final scene the boy says a quote full of meaning which could make us burst into desolated tears or blissful laughters:

- Giosué Orefice: We got a thousand points and we won the game! Daddy and me came in first and now we won the real tank! We won! We won!

The Prologue

This film is made for everyone who wants to live.. to laugh... to fight... to keep dreaming... This film is made for the adults and the kids. This film is a gift to humanity! This film is piece of art.

You can see it with your family, with your children, with your friends, with your boy/girlfriend, with yourself. You can see it in the morning, in the evening, at the night. You can see it when you're happy or sad. This film is limitless. It's just a masterpiece!

Is "Life Is Beautiful" One of the Best European Films?

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