Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Film: Life is Beautiful

Film: Life is Beautiful (1997, in Italian with subtitles.) This is has been called a Holocaust comedy and, as such, I found it mystifying but ultimately moving, thanks to the brilliant child actor and, of course, history. The first half set in Tuscany is clownish banana-skin comedy. Apparently Roberto Benigni, writer, director and star, is much loved in Italy, but to me his is a silly rather than witty humour that doesn’t translate. Perhaps he’s the Italian version of a 50s cheeky chappie or born again Charlie Chaplin.

Story is that before the second world war, Jewish Benigni goes to Arezzo, works as a waiter, opens a bookstore, marries a beautiful upper-class girl. This is all told with farcical jokes and fast-paced slapstick - you feel you are watching Laurel & Hardy.

Five years on, we discover they now have a child of four. Then the family is arrested and taken to a German camp, so the mood changes completely. But the father persuades the child that the camp is all a great game where people who say they are hungry lose points and the winner will get a tank. I admit that the plot is ingenious in this respect, and the film improves. The ending is half happy, half very sad.

Should you watch it? Well, perhaps you should, but I’d skip most of the first half.
Here’s a review. Some people love this film, some say it diminishes those who suffered. Many say it depends on how you feel about Benigni, but I reckon it is saved by the wide-eyed child who, as I said, is both convincing and appealing without being saccharine. The film won three Oscars and other awards, which was why I chose it at random from the DVD rental company without knowing what it was about.

7 comments:

LindyLouMac said...

I always look forward to your film reviews and often end up adding them to my wishlist to look out for at the DVD hire shop. At first with the Italian links I felt this was going to be another one for the list,but and it is a big but I do not like Laurel and Hardy type humour. Maybe maybe not, at least if I see it on the shelves I will know what to expect.

Susie Vereker said...

I do hope you do get to watch it, Linda, because I'd like to know what a person who knows Italy thinks about it.

LindyLouMac said...

Susie, I will add it to the list of titles to look out for at the hire shop then :)

Karen said...

Sounds interesting. We have this in the library where I work and I've looked at it a few times, then put it back. Maybe I'll actually watch it now!

Debs said...

It does sound interesting.

I've just started reading Tropical Connections and am loving it.

sablonneuse said...

Do you know I did watch this film but missed the beginning for some reason - now I know that was all for the good.

Pumpkin said...

I watched it years ago and loved it but you are right it is the boy that makes the movie.