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Life Is Beautiful - Movie Review

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Life is Beautiful (1998)

Movie Review

The 1998 Italian film, Life is Beautiful, is a moving blend of cold terror and rapturous comedy. Crafted by one of Italy’s most known comedians and filmmaker, it is a rare film that is successfully able to take on a comical approach to a daring subject, the Holocaust. After watching the film in class, I was able to not only see the horrific events that took place during the time; I understood that regardless of the situation, the power of laughter and imagination is able to move the human spirit even through something as tragic as the Holocaust.

The film opens comically with Benigni’s character, Guido, and his best friend, Ferruccio, racing down a hill when their car’s brakes stop functioning. It is then where Guido meets his future wife, Dora, when she falls into his arms from a barn. Here he cries, “Good morning princess!” with a wide grin. Guido has a talent of taking coincidences and transforming his surroundings to seem like genuine magic. By doing this, he is able to charm Dora each moment they see each other. However, Dora is set to be engaged to a rich and arrogant man, Amico. Guido is aware that this man hates him; Amico was the disagreeable moneylender Guido had troubles with when trying to land a loan for his bookshop. As the movie progresses, Guido goes through numerous obstacles and taking advantage of “coincidences” in order to finally marry the love of his life. Time passes and Guido and Dora finally have a child, Joshua. Once Joshua turns into a small child, the rise of racist attitudes towards the Jews quickly escalates- Guido’s uncle’s home is often raided by the officials purely due to his Jewish heritage. Not long after, Eliseo, Guido, and his son are taken away from their home to a train headed for a concentration camp. Dora, a family oriented woman, refuses to be left behind and insists on boarding the train, regardless of the horrors she knows are to come. Once at the camp, the men and women are separated, keeping Dora from seeing her son and husband. Guido knows that all children are killed because of their inability to do hard labor the officials force them to do, so Guido ensures that Joshua stays well hidden for the duration of their time at the camp. The entirety of Guido’s time at the camp was spent entertaining his son by telling him it is all a game- the first to a thousand points wins a real tank. Guido also spends his time sneaking around and trying everything to see or at least make contact with his wife, who he was not seen since they boarded the train. It is for this reason that Guido is caught by one of the camp officials, leading to Guido’s inevitable downfall. However, due to Guido’s extraordinary optimism and love for his family, Joshua successfully survives the rest of his stay at the camp and is reunited with his mother after the Americans end the existence of the camp.

Life is Beautiful has the perfect balance of comical relief to ease the terrors of the Holocaust happening at the time. Guido, the main character, integrates his Italian heritage and culture into the film through his extravagant hand gestures, loud personality, and his poetic script. For example, when Dora first falls into Guido’s arms, he does not ask if she is alright or if she is hurt. He greets her loudly, grinning ear to ear, saying “Good morning princess!” From there on, every time Guido sees Dora, he must say this loud and proud. Additionally, throughout the movie, Guido continually uses his rambunctious personality and fast talking that plays a large part in his



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