While we crib and whine about unimportant things in life, which, might not even matter the next day, those are the times I truly hope (for myself as well) that I am reminded of the movie Life is Beautiful. It is a 1997 Italian film directed by Roberto Benigni that won him the Oscar in the Foreign Film category. Since then, the director hasn’t been able to make anything memorable as such. The movie is sensitive, emotional, strong on characters and will make you cry towards the end.
The story rides on the shoulders of the director who is also the lead in the film, Roberto Benigni, who is portrayed as a Jew by the name of Guido and dreams of starting his own bookstore in a country that discriminates against the Jews in the pre Second world war time. He works as a waiter in a restaurant where he loves playing riddles with a doctor appointed with the German concentration camp. Guido falls in love with an Italian teacher Dora (played by Nicoletta Braschi), who he meets at several occassions and tries to woo her every single time with his antics. Dora finally gives in to Guido’s affection and they get married and eventually have a beautiful son Giosue. When the World War II breaks out, Guido, his uncle Eliseo and son are captured by German army to be sent off to a concentration camp. His wife, Dora, although not originally a Jew volunteers to go to the camp too, just so she can stay close to her family.
As an audience, you’ll expect that the movie will take a serious turn and there will be blood, gore and all sorts of unpleasant things, but Roberto gave the series of events such an interesting treatment that it wouldn’t be non-violent visually, yet it will break your heart. Like everyone would know how old people and children were gassed in chambers under the pretence of a hot shower, Guido’s son Eliseo escapes the holocaust every single time as he hates taking bath and on other occasions Guido convinces him to stay hidden under the garb of projecting the concentration camp as a game and the one who manages to stay alive until the end wins a tank. He chooses to hide their true situation from Eliseo so as to not affect him mentally. There will be times in the movie when his son is unconvinced by Guido but Guido manages to get him along every single time.
As the war comes to an end, Dora and Eliseo are united after Guido loses his life in order to ensure their safety. Guido in all respects, fulfils his promise to his son who gets to ride on an American tank that he assumes he has won as a prize. It is only years later that his son realises the sacrifice his father made for him and his mother. More than them, it is the sacrifice for your loved ones. The love that is pure, selfless and unconditional. I was weeping profusely by the end of it, merely by the performances and the narrative. Even as I am writing this (although it’s been a really long time that I watched the film), I can feel the exact emotion I felt when I watched it for the first time.
One of my favourite movies of all time.