Life Is Beautiful (La Vita è bella) (1997)
Critic Consensus: Benigni's earnest charm, when not overstepping its bounds into the unnecessarily treacly, offers the possibility of hope in the face of unflinching horror.
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as Guido Orefice
as Uncle Eliseo
as Dora's Mother
as Dr. Lessing
as Didactic Principal
as Ferrucio Orefice
as School Inspector
as City Hall Secretary
as German Corporal
as German Lieutenant
as Ernesto the Waiter
as Dora's Governess
as Woman at the Opera
as Rodolfo's Friend
as Policeman in Booksto...
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Critic Reviews for Life Is Beautiful (La Vita è bella)
Yes, there are heaps of charm and poignancy in this trifle, but it's a trifle nonetheless -- light-and-bright, for sure, but also slight-and-trite.
Its sentiment is inescapable, but genuine poignancy and pathos are also present, and an overarching sincerity is visible too.
Benigni certainly knew the risk he was taking with his idea, but the circumstances overwhelm him.
In the real death camps there would be no role for Guido. But Life Is Beautiful is not about Nazis and Fascists, but about the human spirit.
It's a high-wire act without a net, and Benigni pulls it off with astounding grace and sensitivity.
Audience Reviews for Life Is Beautiful (La Vita è bella)
Buongiorno Principessa! A very powerful film that begins pre-war as a slap-stick comedy, introducing our characters with some memorable clever scenes, but then shows its real genius in the second-half when Guido uses his fast-talking talent to keep his young son's high spirits and childhood naivety intact during their internment in a concentration camp. Guido's character has an extremely and uniquely playful perspective on life that with great skill carries him, his son and indeed his wife, on through some of the most bleakest times anyone could ever experience.
I think you have to give this film credit just for having the guts to address a heavy subject like the Holocaust in the manner done here, which is predominately with a lighthearted tone. That's a big risk, but it mostly pays off here.
Basically the movie is about a man who tries to shelter his son from the ugliness of the world. Guido has a Jewish background, and when he and his son are sent to a concentration camp, he does his best (really going to elaborate lengths at times) to keep his son from finding out the brutal truth of their situation. He mostly does this by telling him they are playing a game.
This really could have gone badly, but it doesn't. Benigni (as actor and director) uses just the right touch to pull this delicate balancing act off. The film is admittedly rather uneven (especially when it really starts to get heavy and dark near the end), but I think the approach here is an interesting one to take when trying to educate kids about such a dark era.
Benigni does give an excellent performance in the lead, and it's almost as memorable as his acceptance speech for when he got the Oscar for his work here. The other performances are also really good, but this is definitely Benigni's show. The film has great technical stuff, is pretty funny at times, and also very heartwarming/wrenching when necessary.
Definitely a challenging film, and not without its flaws, but it is thought provoking, and something I highly recommend.
The film's highlight is one man's battle to keep the ugliness of the world from his innocent son, no matter how ugly the world might be, and in this case that means the death camps of the Nazis. Leaning heavily on the silent film comedies of the 20's, physical comedian Benigni is achingly sincere, sometimes to the good, sometimes to the bad, nonetheless one is left with an important consideration: who's version of events are most important? He contends, like few before, that if we make our own reality, then isn't it better to be smiling?
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