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La Vita e Bella

Life Is Beautiful

One of the most popular attempts to depict the Holocaust on film, Roberto Benigni stars as Guido, a Jewish peasant, travelling to northern Italy to find work. Employed as a waiter he falls in love with schoolteacher Dora. She is charmed by his clownish ways and leaves her fiance on their wedding day to marry him.

The film moves ahead to 1944, shifting dramatically in tone. Guido and their son Giosue are taken to a concentration camp where he endeavours to distract him with humour from the horrors all around. He invents a game for Giosue to play and continues it right up to the end, convincing the child that surviving in the camp is simply a matter of scoring points.

The film has divided critics, some of whom have viewed it as insensitive and egotistical on the part of Benigni as director and star. Others have praised it lavishly, it won 3 Oscar awards and delighted audiences around the world. Either way it certainly provides opportunity for valuable discussion and frames the Holocaust as no film has done before.

Director: Roberto Benigni
Italy, 1997.
115 min. Comedy/Drama.
(Cert 12)

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