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Life Is Beautiful (La vita e bella)
Academy Award® Winner
In World War II Europe, a Jewish bookstore owner and his son are deported to a concentration camp. Using his spirit and imagination, he tries to save his family from the horrors of the Holocaust.

Starring Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, Giorgio Cantarini

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Reviews Summary


Please Note: Reader Reviews are submitted by the readers of The BigScreen Cinema Guide and represent their own personal opinions regarding this movie, and do not represent the views of The BigScreen Cinema Guide, or any of its associated entities.

[--- Good ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
This is a good movie BUT dont think this is a comedy! It is marketed in too positive a light, this movie is heavy especially if you have children. It is definately not for kids! But the trama between father son and mother being seperated in the camp is very hard to watch. The acting is super and it is well done. Bennini is a great movie maker, I would say this movie is as powerful as Schindler's List without too many shots of "reality". This movie is well worth seeing just don't go expectinga light hearted movie.

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
This movie is a slap in the face to all people, parents and children alike, who suffered the atrocities of the Nazi concentration camps during World War 2. Even to suggest that anyone could have gotten away with the antics that this movie's "hero" tries to do is absolutely absurd. Turning the century's most horrible nightmare into sentimental drivel is a despicable act. Please do not support this tasteless travesty.

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
A tender, truly touching and powerful film. I laughed a lot in the beginning half and cried a lot in the second half (except in those parts in which I laughed there too). For my way of thinking it in no way trivializes the Holocaust. Having lost over twenty-five relatives including my grandparents, I think I would be sensitve to that fact. It is a monument to the power of love - of that of a man and a woman - and of a parent to a child depicted in a creative way with broad colorful strokes.

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
The true crime against the victims of the Holocaust has always been their dehumanization in cinema. In a typical Schindler's List movie, Holocaust victims are score upon score of human flesh, herded from train to bunk to gas chamber. Very little is ever told of theire individuality.It's true that Life Is Beautiful is not faithful to this tradition of the depiction of the Holocaust. However, it will hopefully set a new precedent. Life Is Beautiful is a great film not because it is a comedy, or because it is about the Holocaust, but because fundamentally, it is about being human. And being human is an experience to which those who marched off to the gas chambers were also party, much as those purists and pundits may want you to believe otherwise. Roberto Benigni made a brave and beautiful film here. Don't let any extremists convince you otherwise.

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
Roberto Benigni wrote, directed and starred in this beautifully filmed, but ultimately dishonest film. That probably explained why the camera is on his face 95% of the time--and why the other characters are cardboard cutouts (his wife exist only to adore him--the Nazis only to contrast with his heroic goodness. Anyone whose the least bit familiar with the Holocaust could tell you that the antics Benigni pulls off in this movie would've led to a rifle butt being embedded in his skull in about 4 seconds. Obviously, my wife and I are in the minority, but we found the film utterly implausible. I agree totally with the review that described the picture as "a wildly overrated, cloying Chahplinesque embarassment in which the writer/director/egomaniac plays an Italian Jew who sweeps a rich shiksa off her feet in overlong series of pratfalls. Next, in an overlong display of distastefulness, he tries to convince his child that the death camp is just an elaborate game… That Benigni gleefully appropriates the Holocaust for his own self-aggrandizement is as noxious as his abysmal direction." What next? Jerry Lewis showing us "The Lighter Side of the Jonestown Massacre?"

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
This is the best movie I have ever seen. The idea for the movie, the script, the acting was brilliant and this is a movie I would definitely rewatch, either on video or the big screen.

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
It might really hard for someone with emotional immaturity to see this movie. He or she could just denounce this movie as beng untrue to the holocaust, making a mockery of one of the worst genocides in history. But one has to dig deeper beneath that to be able to appreciate the true radiance of the movie. It is not solely about persecution nor is it myopic about the human spirit. What this movie has managed to do is blend the two elements together and give us a whole new persepective of the era in which it happened. It shows us the colours of mankind in dealing with adversity which the director has used to paint I can only call nothing short of a masterpiece. This movie will make you laugh, transport you into a magical realm, mesmerizes you only to hurl you into the depths of despair in the second half of the movie. And you ask yourself why am I crying and laughing at the same time. because as the title says life is beautiful. And this was one man's portrayal of not letting go of his spirit in the face of the worst atrocities commited in the history of mankind. This makes the hero of our movie truly a true hero. It shows how someone can take away our flesh but never kill the soul that can rise above it. Pity that it had to be a foreign director to be able to come up with such a movie. But then again after having seen such short sighted movies from American directors like the Waterboy...what else can you expect from them?

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
Life is Beautiful (1997)

There is a moment in 'Life is Beautiful' when the clownish Guido tells the girl of his dreams what they will do that evening. He speaks as though reminiscing about a story that has become a perfect memory.

As the story progressed, I got the notion that I was watching a favorite film, one of the handful that I carry with me everywhere. Roberto Benigni's 'La Vita e Bella' follows closely its early pronouncement in a brief voice-over: it's a fable, perhaps sad and difficult to tell, but full of wonder and happiness.

Beginning in Italy in 1939, the story focuses on Guido Orefice (Benigni) and his exploits after he leaves the country for the city. He travels with a friend who is a poet as well as an upholsterer. Guido is a waiter; he's also a solver of riddles, a supreme jokester, an aficionado of life. Soon Guido happens upon Dora (Nicolletta Braschi), whom he dubs his "princess." In a clever leit motif, Guido repeatedly surprises Dora in an astonishing variety of places and ways - he's a stalker, only lovestruck and hilarious. After he wins her laughter and her heart, times passes and we see the couple with their child, four year-old Joshua. Guido has finally realized his dream of running a bookshop, although the politics of the time - the early 'forties now - dictates his bookshop shutters be identified with "Jewish Store." We catch glimpses of the happy life lived by Dora and Guido and Joshua, but it is not to last.

When Dora returns home one afternoon to find their villa ransacked and empty, the story takes a heart-breaking turn. Guido and Joshua, along with Guido's uncle, have been sent to a concentration camp. It's typical of the strength of Guido's love that he tries to protect his son from the trauma of the sudden truck- and cattle car-rides by happily deluding him. Enlisting a formidable imagination and his uncle's help, Guido constructs an elaborate lie. The trip is Joshua's birthday gift, a game during which one collects points for performing absurd and brutal duties. The Nazis are "mean guys that yell"; Joshua must hide or risk being "eliminated" from the game; the prize for amassing 1000 points is a tank, a real-life version of Joshua's favorite toy. To complicate matters, Dora has desperately found her way aboard the train and into the camp, secluded from her male family members, of course. In addition to perpetuating the myth of the game, Guido is faced with endeavoring to contact Dora, a feat he manages ingeniously.

To assert that the story is punctuated by comic relief would be irrelevant, for the film manages to sustain its humorous tone even as tragedy seeps into the narrative line. Benigni's gift to the audience is his ability to juggle the subplots, to portray farcical elements often within the same sequences as sinister ones. In one masterful tour-de-force, the crafty father pretends he is translating instructions from the camp guards to the Italian prisoners. Eyes shifting endlessly, Guido improvises incredible and silly rules; the result is his son's continuing belief in the protective charade.

Benigni's Guido is a sweet and hyperactive man, likable long before his character is tested by prejudice and internment. Guido initiates several satirical digs at fascism, most memorably when he masquerades as a school inspector from Rome, charged with explaining to the school children the Italian claims to Aryan superiority. Benigni is goofy and intelligent at once as he mumbles about racist Italian scientists, showing his audience of "bambini" his superior belly button and superior hip before the real inspector shows up and Guido goes out a window. Here Roberto Benigni echoes the performances of the best comedians of this century in their send-ups of Hitler's and Mussolini's thugs.

As Joshua, essentially the co-star of the picture, Giorgio Cantarini is outstanding. What's remarkable is that he is so believeable in his expressions of extreme emotions. Though assisted by Benigni's knowing direction, the boy's acting never seems fake-y. One illustration occurs when Guido suddenly opens a bin in which Joshua has been hiding. We see the wide-eyed child's look of genuine excitement, almost rowdiness, that precedes surprise.

Nicoletta Braschi, as Dora, seems unattainable at first - too beautiful and socially connected for Guido the Jewish waiter. But we witness her succumb to Guido's considerable efforts, and the goodness radiates from her face. Her cast of longing and love stuns the viewer in one scene, when Guido engineers the playing of their song - an Offenbach opera - so that it's audible in the women's barracks. Her presence is heartening during the uncertain times of the film's setting, another goal to keep Guido struggling.

I've mentioned motifs already, but they warrant more. Functioning as running jokes, several gags are tied in time and time again, striking chords that are magic as well as moving. The sole criticism I can muster is that we need to see more of Dora's family's rejection of Guido. After all, Guido is the interloper who literally carries Dora away from her husband-to-be, picking her up with his uncle's "Jewish horse"! Otherwise, the dual themes of humor and menace play about the screen brilliantly.

Who will Roberto Benigni be compared with next, after Buster Keaton and Charles Chaplin? That the film has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture (and not merely Best Foreign Film), and Benigni for Best Actor, Director and Screenwriter (with Vincenzo Cerami) attests to its solid stance. (The film is already the recipient of the Best Foreign Film award from the Online Film Critics Society.) 'Life is Beautiful' takes risks and, unlike a lot of lesser films, earns its tears. It is a must-see for all fans of movies, all devotees to human endurance, and all passionate lovers of this beautiful life.

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
Very beautiful way of looking 'black' moments of life. Gives hope to life! Of course, it is a European movie, and you see the difference!

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
The power of a story or film can be gauged by its ability to deliver its human message amidst a backdrop of horror, terror, catastrophe, or cataclysmic change. This movie, quite simply, completely delivered its message of complete love for ones "lifemate" and ones child in a heroic and humane manner.

This movie is not a comedy...to call it one or to condemn it as one shows a lack of insight by the reviewer. The father's obsessive and successful attempt to convince his son that the horror around them was part of an elaborate game was not humorous, it was human. He wanted so desperately to spare his son from the terrible things going on around them.

My wife is a child of a survivor...her comment as we walked out of the theater was she wished her father had had someone with him in the camps to make it even marginally more bearable. To me, that is what this movie was about...a father finding a way to humanize an inhumane situation.

You have to see this movie...

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
Story of a happy-go-lucky waiter who amuses us with his perfectly timed comic antics through the first half of the movie, then moves us to tears in the second half with a phenomenal depiction of the lengths that a father will go to for the sake of his son. It's incredible to watch Roberto Benigni (who directed, stars in, and co-wrote) in action, handling this difficult material with such apparent ease and complete credibility. The set up establishing Guido (Benigni) as a comedian is essential, for it shows that this is the way he must take care of things later: through comedy. If there is any justice, "Life is Beautiful" will win the Best Foreign Film Oscar (and once Benigni steps onto that stage to accept that gold bald guy, you will never forget him, trust me). Lost in the shuffle of the powerful story that focuses on Guido is the sacrifice that Dora also makes for her family. "Life is Beautiful" is a celebration of just that: life, it's importance, and the necessity to make every moment count. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. These might be cheesy cliches, but could you do what Guido accomplishes in "Life is Beautiful?" I know I couldn't.

10-point scale rating: 9

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
The idea that anyone would discredit this movie as being unrealistic is absolutely depressing. It is not a story about the Holocaust, it is not trying to recreate the unrecreatable. It is not Shindler's list and not an attempt at documentary. Rather, it is a simple story about life being beautiful. The entire movie is an expression of life, the things that should be valued and the sustinance we as humans find in our realtionships with one another. Roberto Bennini should be credited with being able to draw such emotion from his audiance by using simple images which let the view fill in the blank instead of bombarding him with horrible images which don't succeed in recaputuring what our worst nightmares could not anyway.

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
Every so often you see a movie that you want to tell everyone about, you want them to see it just so you can share together the emotions the movie instills in you. I saw such a movie this weekend, "Life Is Beautiful." At 9:30 on a Saturday night in my small, college-town theater, I walked into a packed house. Immediately the audience was swept into Tuscany, Italy in 1939. Guido Orefice (played brilliantly by the incredible Roberto Benigni) captures our hearts in a matter of minutes. A beautiful schoolteacher, Dora, falls from a barn into Guido's arms, and he calls her his "Principesse" (princess). He goes on a quest to claim her heart, even though she is engaged to another. Soon, she is won over by his romantic antics, and the two are married and have a son, Joshua. The family is the very picture of happiness: Dora teaches while Guido runs a small bookshop, and little Joshua is the apple of his parents' eyes. The Orifices are Jewish, and are living in Italy during the time of World War II. Dora comes home one day to find her home ransacked, and Guido and Joshua gone. She learns they are on a train to go to a concentration camp, and stoically demands to make the same fateful trip. Upon arriving, Dora is separated from Guido and Joshua. Joshua, obviously, is scared, so Guido makes up an elaborate tale that they are there to play a game, and the one who collects 1000 points will win a real tank. Guido's true character shines through as, despite his own misery, he maintains a cheerful demeanor for Joshua's sake. Many have said that this movie is an insult to the victims of the Holocaust, since the movie is a comedy. I disagree. This is a moving story about courage, inspiration, and the love of a family. Roberto Benigni said that the movie is not a comedy about concentration camps, but a movie about a comedian in a concentration camp. Upon leaving the theater, you will come to the same conclusion that I did: Life IS Beautiful.

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
"La Vita E Bella" is an infectious tale that proves love, family and imagination conquers all. Otherwise known as "Life is Beautiful" in the English speaking world, this film stars it’s director, co-writer, and producer, Roberto Benigni as the engaging Jewish book shop owner, Guido Orefice. Benigni picked up two well earned Academy Awards for this achievement, one for Best Actor and the other for Best Foreign Language Film. A third was awarded to Nicola Piovani for Best Dramatic Score.

About the first hour of the film is spent developing the hilarious antics of Guido to win over the object of his affection, Dora, convincingly played by Benigni’s real-life wife Nicoletta Braschi. She, needless to say falls for him when he rescues her from an undesirable party via a green-stained horse. They eventually marry and have a son named Gisoe (Giorgio Cantarini ).

The second half of the film encounters the horrors of an Italian concentration camp. Even though Dora (Braschi) is Catholic she forces her way onto the train with her husband and son, well knowing the consequences. That was her way of showing her devotion and affection for her family.

It may seem odd to set a comedy in a concentration camp but Benigni, pulls it off without disrespect or insolence. Guido(Benigni) tells his son that being in the camp is an elaborate game, and that he shouldn’t cry about anything, including being hungry. Many of the things that happened in a concentration camp were left out of this film except for one horrifying image of corpses piled like garbage at the city dump.

This film redefines the human spirit and the tests that many go through to prove love to others. "Life is Beautiful" definitely proves that very thing.

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
This movie deserved all the awards: truthful and imaginative. When the world gets you down you can still make room for the sunlight!

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
An extraordinary twist on an old subject. Just when I thought they couldn't make anything else out of it, this perfect gem turns up. Heartwarming, extremely funny, and a little bit of slapstick makes this in my top 5......Ever!

Go see it.

Jul 25, 2003
Roberto Benigni will put a smile on your face in "Life is Beautiful." A wonderful film about a jew and his son who was thrown into a Nazi camp. Benigni uses his humor to survive. This is a story of a family who fight nazism with humor and hope. A touching film. You're going love this film.

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