Life is Beautiful

Director: Roberto Benigni

Italy| 1997. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 116 min.

Roberto Benigni’s Vita e bella has divided critics and delighted audiences since its release in 1997. Winner of three Academy awards, it tells the story of Guido (Benigni), a clownish peasant who arrives in a Tuscan town in 1939 to visit his uncle and begins to court local schoolteacher Dora (Nicoletta Braschi), whom he manages to seduce away from her Fascist fiance. Moving forward to 1944, the film dramatically shifts tone and direction as the couple and their son are taken to a concentration camp. The Chaplinesque Guido uses humour to distract the boy from their situation, turning their internment into a game. For some, the second half of Benigni’s film amounts to a gross miscalculation despite his good intentions. For others, it is a touching fable about a father’s unqualified love for his son and wife. Either way, the film frames the Holocaust as no film has done before and is likely to remain a classic of Italian cinema for years to come

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