Current School: Harvard College
Interests: Public service, writing, trying new cuisines
Favorite cartoon: Peanuts
Favorite TV Shows: The Office, 90’s Nickelodeon shows, science fiction shows
Fun activity: Exploring other cultures
This review first ran on Sept. 7, 2010
One of my favorite movies is “Life is Beautiful” (or “La vita è bella”), starring Roberto Benigni. When I first watched it years ago, I thought the plot was absurd, especially since it seemed to deal lightly with such serious topics as WWII concentration camps. I was astounded at how a movie could so unabashedly leap from drama to romance to comedy to tragedy. In the years since, I’ve come to understand the film actually represented reality to the highest degree.
In this film, Benigni plays a happy-go-lucky young Jewish man in Italy named Guido. Guido has an indelible X-factor that transcends simple optimism—a combination of charisma, courage, and intense personal loyalty (think of a cunning Forrest Gump).
This quality helps him gain the love of Dora, a local teacher with whom he later has a son named Giosué.
As Guido settles into a seemingly comfortable life with his new family, the Nazis suddenly invade and take him and his family to a concentration camp.
At that point, the movie suddenly transforms from a romantic comedy to a suspenseful drama. Guido, in an attempt to placate and protect his five-year-old son, convinces his son that the camp is actually a complex game that needs to be played carefully. In fact, the lengths that Guido goes through to save his son can only be described as heroic.
“Life is Beautiful” takes its viewers to every stop on the emotional spectrum. This emotional and situational medley – like human life – has no clear genre. I have come to realize that this film’s combination of elation, sacrifice, and tragedy is only as absurd as reality itself.
Don’t be surprised if you’re stunned by the conclusion of the film, eagerly awaiting a pleasant ending. This uneasiness is what makes this film so valuable – the sacrifices are only as “dramatic” as the love and loyalty. This movie’s message is timeless: life goes on and the memory lives.
*** Thanks, Rena. Here is the trailer for the film, which won three Academy Awards: