RECENTLY VIEWED: Life is Beautiful

Life is Beautiful

For International Cinema (a film course I’m taking right now at Salisbury University), we watched an Italian film some might know as Life is Beautiful. In Italian, the title La Vita e Bella rings very poetically and is all you need to know from the get go: That this movie is living, breathing poetry about darkest hours and brightest smiles.

Guido is a middle aged man traveling through the Italian countryside, bringing immense life and indomitable imagination with him everywhere he goes with his hyperactive talent for humor and romance. He meets a woman who literally falls on him from the sky, and decides pretty much in that moment that he’ll look for her every chance he gets- she is his “princess.” The first half of the movie is his demonstration of character and whimsy- consistently drawing others into his imagination and making life truly worth living for those who surround him. However, he just so happens to be in the wrong time for love- that being the 1940’s, where it was popular to name children Adolf and Benito, and the disregard for human life took a back seat to “progress.”

Begnini

He succeeds at wooing his woman, and even is gifted a very smart, and very well played child named Giosue, with whom his life truly becomes beautiful. The time catches up with him, however, and he and his son are taken away to a Nazi Holocaust camp, where there fate will be unknown. It’s up to Guido to mask the horrors of this life from his son, much to young to understand, and make sure that his son never has to know the real suffering, the deep hatred, and the cruel traumas of war. The movie is about this gift that a father gives a son. Is it a gift of ignorance, or a gift of freedom? You decide for yourself, but for me, it’s a gift of salvation.

This film has gone on to win numerous awards, including Best Actor Oscar for its star, the stellar and always entertaining Roberto Benigni, who well deserved his acclaim even though his entire film has been bashed some critics for being unreal and unfair to the past.

Well, I’m here to set the record straight- I am not even going to wait till the end of this review to say this: This movie strikes the biggest pose I’ve seen in a while. Clever, sympathetic, sweet and never exploitative of the true events (it handles the Holocaust tastefully), yet the ending is still guaranteed to evoke tears in even the hardest hard-ass.

life is beautiful still

Filmed in some way that resembles classic Technicolor looks, with flat, exaggerated coloring that truly brings it into a romantic genre, the film feels like a 1950’s or 40’s classic, but with the spirit of hindsight to make it even more potently covered in the era it is trying to amicably recreate. For something that feels so old fashioned it completely blows away most modern efforts to entertain while making the viewer consider the situation the characters are in. The movie Moulin Rogue, for instance, uses modern day effects of grandiose coloring and movement to keeps it’s viewer on the picture at all times. What this film does is mainly give you one incredible character, various incredible settings, and frame them all in an astonishing script that never lets up on laughter and joy. This isn’t just the joy of romance, parenting, or survival- its just the ability to breathe. I used to have a theory- as long as we’re alive we’ll be alive. We can breathe, we can live. It’s slightly abstract but if I could ever find a movie to define what I meant, this film would be it.

Automatically getting a seat in my top 50 flicks of all time (and possibly top 10 upon later viewings,) Life is Beautiful isn’t so much a story of struggle as it is a story of the power of imagination and living. To say something any more original about it would be quite difficult, because this movie so quintessentially sticks to that theme, it’s probably bar none the best example of pacifistic dignity ever captured on film.

****/****

poster life is

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