Life is Beautiful is a 1997 Italian film starring (famous?) Italian actor Roberto Benigni. It’s a movie of two halves really, the first half a whirlwind romance. The second a half a Nazi death camp. It is now an acclaimed film, holding the 53rd spot on the IMDB top 250. But is it actually any good? Yeah, it’s alright.
First we’ll start with Roberto Benigni. He plays the main character Guido. We first see him hurtling down a hill, in a car with no brakes, a perfect introduction for this character. He instantly falls in love with the beautiful Dora (played by Benigni’s real life wife Nicoletta Braschi) Now the real problem, and also main attraction of this film is Benigni himself. When watching his Chaplin-like antics you can’t help but get tired of it at some points. It’s almost as if he’s hogging the screen, of course the movie was also directed and co-wrote by Benigni. I found myself getting very bored of his goose step after a while. BUT that doesn’t mean some scenes aren’t sincere and genuinely moving. When Guido and his son get to the concentration camp Guido is asked to translate the German Commanders orders into Italian. He can’t speak German but he volunteers to anyway, and he translates the cruel orders and rules of the Nazi’s into a game for his son. Whoever lasts longest wins a tank (because his son is a little boy and what little boy wouldn’t want a tank?!) When people are killed or murdered by the Nazi’s, he says they’ve dropped out of the competition. This is a really upbeat and heartfelt way to show an innocent view of the holocaust.
I’d heard about this film before watching it and my worry was that it would possibly be a bit offensive or heavy handed. But it isn’t. The comedy is a bit too slapstick for me but I still laughed occasionally. It’s a film I would definitely recommend and watch again. It’s worth it just because it’s so original, I mean where else are you going to see a romantic tragicomedy about the Holocaust? Exactly, give it a go.