Life Is Beautiful (1997)

I finally had the chance to catch Life Is Beautiful last weekend with some of my friends, this time a little different because we watched it at an open-air cinema event! It was absolutely magical, and everyone there was totally immersed in the film so there was no distraction at all. Perfect for me.

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Pretty cool ey?

Okay back to the film! Life Is Beautiful, at its heart, is about a father’s love for his child, and his wish to protect his son from the cruelty of the world they found themselves in. And when I say protect – I mean it a little differently than our usual idea of what protection is. Because what Guido (played by Roberto Benigni) did for his boy was to only paint a different perspective of what was going on in his boy’s eyes… and for that simple fact I absolutely respect the genius of the writers of this film.

I have heard that because this was a comedy/drama about the holocaust, many people felt the movie was being very insensitive. That thought did cross my mind around midway of the film: that some people aren’t going to be too happy about this. But from my point of view, I felt that we should be watching the movie through the correct/intended perspective, which is that of the little boy, Joshua (Giosuè). Life was beautiful to him because of what his father believed in and fought so very hard to keep. I held that very dear to my heart and definitely didn’t think light of the subject matter at the end. In fact, the bittersweet emotions I felt when the movie ended, moved me to tears and I couldn’t figure out whether they were tears of happiness or sadness. But it felt far more complex than the usual films and documentaries I’ve seen about the holocaust. I felt that this new take on what happened made this movie extra special and memorable.

What I absolutely loved about this film’s take on “comedy” was its timelessness. The comedic elements in it’s screenplay weren’t specific to the time period the film was set in, no references to people/events I didn’t know, and no culturally specific jokes that only Italians would understand. I know for sure that whether I saw this in 1997, 2017 or 2057, I would still find myself pleasantly charmed by these moments. There were also many parallels made between the first half and the second half of the movie… which might have made it especially heartbreaking to me (in every positive way).

This movie is perfect if you’re a parent looking for a film on the holocaust that isn’t too complicated to understand, nor too gruesome for a child to be watching. It is also a good option for a movie event with family and friends, because the pacing of this movie is very fast, you wouldn’t feel the two hours! I say this in comparison to other films on the holocaust like The Pianist, or Schindler’s List (they could be too slow in pace for some people).

I highly recommend this movie to everyone, whether you’re a fan of art cinema or just looking for a mainstream film to ease into at the end of a stressful day. Forgive me for the insensitive words I’m going to say but… I really enjoyed this movie. I’m internally conflicted about how is the best way to say it but it is an undeniable fact that I had a lot of fun watching Life Is Beautiful; it was mesmerizing, inspiring, heart-wrenching, and I’d watch it all over again, and again, and again…