Set in Italy in World War 2, Life is Beautiful is divided into two halves. In the first half of the movie its love between a man and a woman, tempered by humour. In the second half, it is the love of a man for his family. As the world around them changes Guido and Giosue are suddenly separated from Dora and thrown into a concentration camp. Amidst the horror of this ordeal, Guido convinces his son Giosue that it is all a game and that to win you must take precautions not to be seen. He says this to protect him from reality.
This movie is a humorous view of the holocaust with the major theme being love and that it conquers all.
The first half of the movie did not really strike my attention yet the eccentric character of Guido caught my eye, I did not quite follow the story until the end of the first half, where I noticed the sudden changes. Although the first half wasnt very interesting I loved Guidos character as the funny one and how when he walked into the room there was never a dull moment. The second half showed a great view on the war. Some people may think of it as a mock to the holocaust yet I think that it is far from it as Benigini (the director), takes the subject matter very seriously, as is obvious from the subtle air of menace that hangs over the film’s second half. A movie does not have to be as grim and gut wrenching as movies such as Schindlers list to get the point across.
The central theme of Life is Beautiful is that people will do whatever is necessary to protect what is most dear to them. This is displayed in a moving and singularly effective manner. Although there is an aspect of joy in observing the ridiculously complex fantasies that Guido develops for Giosue’s consumption, there’s also a deep sense of sadness every time we consider where the characters are and what their fate may be. The movie also makes an observation about the importance of shallow friendships when self-interest is involved. We observe this with the relationship of Guido and Dr Lessing, a German physician. Before Guido was arrested, the two enjoyed the company of each other but when they next meet their relative positions change radically.
The settings suited the storyline well. Set in a small town in Italy, the music and lighting made me feel happy as the story was fun and romantic an example of this is when Dora was at her engagement party and Guido was talking with her under the table. With the second half changing into a horrific nightmare, the lighting dramatically changes from bright and to sunny to dim and dirty. This continues throughout the second half. The music also changes as you get to feel how grim it all is. This movie lets viewers in on how hard the war was on the Jews but in a humorous and lighter way. This is shown when he interprets the German Officer when they first arrive at the camp.
The performance of both father and son are touching and heart warming. Benigini, tries to transform the sadness of the film into comic situations an example of this is the game he makes up for Giosue. So whilst both laughing and crying the movie provides some great acting.
I loved how Guido had so much love for his family. An example of his love was how he lied about the war to his son, telling him that the whole thing was just a game and if you won you would get a tank. This was not only humorous to watch but heart warming as Guido cares so much for his son that he doesnt want to frighten him. Also just the little things he does for his wife like calling her princess really lightens up the mood. When Guido plays the opera over the radio in the camp to his wife, is a big risk for him yet he wants to show her that he is still alive and still thinking of her. Lastly when he dies for his son was something out of great love and while he is waled off to execution, he still continues the game so that Joshua stays in hiding and that he is calm.
The most powerful aspect of Life is Beautiful is its ability to move and transform. In its perspective on the Holocaust, Benigni’s film is unique. But it’s the depiction of the love and sacrifice of a father for a son that makes Life is Beautiful worthwhile.
I would recommend this movie to people who are interested in a heart warming romance. I give the movie 4 stars as the first half of the movie let me down yet the second really redeemed it.