Wednesday, 5 December 2012
Life Is Beautiful or La Vita è Bella (1997) - ★★★★★
Writers: Vincenzo Cerami, Roberto Benigni
Stars: Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, Giorgio Cantarini
Life is Beautiful happens to be one of the most beautiful films ever made. It's one of the most unorthodox war films in the way that it is a comedy for a large portion, a romance for another, and a drama for the rest. Its genius lies in the way it makes a person love the characters, as well as the story. It sucks you in from start to finish, and leaves you in awe of the ending. It is just brilliant.
Set in 1930s Italy, the film begins with Italian-Jew Guido Orefice (Roberto Benigni) and his funny antics. He then meets Dora (Nicoletta Braschi), who he falls in love with instantaneously and courts her until they are married. Together they have a son Giosué (Giorgio Cantarini), and live happily together keeping a bookstore until the occupation of Italy by German forces. This is a film about a father trying to hold his family together and help his son survive the horros of a Jewish Concentration Camp. He protects his son by telling him that it is a game where you win points by hiding, being quiet and making sure you don't get caught, and if he gets to one thousand points, he will win a real army tank and they can go home.
The characters appear to love each other more than life itself, which is why this film affects me so much. Roberto Benigni gave the best performance of the year and won an oscar for it, which is no surprise to me. He was the heart and soul of the film, and played such a lovable and respectable man. His character would have to be one of the most noble I've ever seen, and definitely one of the best fathers in movie history. He moved heaven and earth to protect his son using extremely clever methods, even when hope seemed lost.
Nicoletta Braschi was also extremely good as Nora, who was not a Jew but elected to go to the concentration camp with them, because she could not face life without them. She would have moved heaven and earth to protect them as well. There was one scene where she could hear music from an opera she saw with Guido. In this scene she produced so much silent emotion, that she could have won an oscar for it. Giorgio Cantarini plays one of the cutest, most innocently brilliant children I've ever seen in a movie. I loved this character to death.
As you can see, this film is so effective in the way it makes a person love the characters. The music by Nicola Piovani fits the story so well, and is one of the greatest movie themes of all time. I found the dialogue to be witty and the events unpredictable, making this film all the more enjoyable and interesting. One of the best things about this film is that it highlights the way regular, good people like Guido were sent to concentration camps even though they had done nothing except be Jewish.
Life is Beautiful is a film about the struggle of a man to hold his family together in the most dire situation imaginable. It has the power to make a person feel overjoyed, and overwhelmed with despair. Some say it's insensitive, and too happy to be set in such a horrific time and place. All I see is a beautiful story, an unforgettable story... one that was executed perfectly.