Life is Beautiful (La Vita é Bella, 1997) became a worldwide hit, garnering good reviews, honours such as seven Academy Award nominations and winning three awards including Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Music, Original Dramatic Score. Roberto Benigni, an Italian director, writer, and lead actor, mesmerised viewers with both his humour and the tragic story of being a Jew during WWII.
This Italian masterpiece takes you directly to World War II Italy and provides glimpses of the torture experienced by the Italian Jews. The film is split into two parts. In the first part, which is set in 1939 Italy, Benigni plays Guido, a funny, amusing Jewish-Italian man who falls in love with Dora, a beautiful upper-class teacher (Nicoletta Braschi). Guido wins many people he meets with his joyful and playful nature, including Dora in the end. They get married and have a son named Joshua.
The tone of the narrative changes in the second half. As World War 2 approaches and anti-Jewish sentiment emerges, we are given glimpses into how Europe is changing. Joshua, however, is a little boy, and Guido wants to protect him from these horrors in every way he can. To do so, he performs and makes comic depictions of things happening around him. Even though everybody is surrounded by chaos, Guido wants to keep his son’s focus on the kindness and beauty of life.
The plot gets more miserable when Guido, Dora, and Joshua are arrested and sent to a Nazi concentration camp. Guido, however, is committed to protecting his son. Guido creates a story about them playing a special game in which the winner receives a real tank. In such a depressing environment, this lifts Joshua out of the horrors of the concentration camp.
In precise, the film shows that beauty can be found in both the best and worst of situations in life.
Critics have said that the film took the Holocaust too lightly by not showing the atrocities Jews had to endure during that time. However, it is important to notice that Guido knows that it is a bad place since he is forced to be a slave and he is aware that his companions are disappearing and being murdered. But he is trying to remain strong even when there is so much chaos. The murders take place off-screen, making it a film that could be introduced to even younger children to the Holocaust.
The music, cast, cinematography, and music make the film a masterpiece.
In the movie, there are moments when it seems like all hope is lost, yet the main character stays strong, managing to find even the tiniest amount of positivity and share it with the people he loves. He never allows his wife and children to lose hope even though he knows he is depressed and constantly prioritises them over himself. I can say that Life is Beautiful is one of those movies that can have a lasting effect on you.