Life is Beautiful (1997)

“We got a thousand points and we won the game! Daddy and me came in first and now we won the real tank! We won! We won!”

Life is Beautiful (1997) tells the story of how a Jewish Prisoner tries to shield his young son from the harsh reality of the concentration camp. 

First and foremost, a disclaimer- Life is Beautiful is my all-time favorite film, and all bias is strictly intended. The film was introduced to me in my Secondary 2 literature class, and I have loved it since then. Although the film is set against the backdrop of World War II in Europe, the film has more to do with human feelings and a beautiful relationship between a father and his son. The time period in which it is set in makes us tear up as we see our protagonist, a hilarious romantic who will do whatever it takes to keep his child safe despite how exhausted he is from his day. 

The film was written and directed by Roberto Benigni, who also starred as Guido. It won the Academy Award for Best Actor, Best Foreign Language Film, and Best Original Dramatic Music score. However, the film faced backlash from critics, as they argued that the humor and the fantasy world created diminishes the suffering of the holocaust victims. As a film student, I feel that while the critics have a point, the film would not have as much impact if not for the context it is set in. While the holocaust was a dark time in history, the film’s goal was not to shed light on the atrocities happening but rather to teach us valuable lessons like how the title suggests that life can still be beautiful in the darkest times. This can be seen as Guido goes about his painful day at the concentration camp but still pulls himself together to smile and manipulate information to convince his son of how exciting their experience is. 

The theme of love is constantly being portrayed, be it the romantic love between Guido and his wife or Guido’s love for his son. Love is universal, and thus this film is a timeless piece that will resonate with people of all ages. This film, to me, symbolizes the strength of love. I highly recommend giving it a watch as it touches your heartstrings by making you laugh and cry.

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