Do you remember the 1998 Oscar ceremony where a charismatic Italian man jumped over chairs and sprinted to the stage when Sophia Loren announced the winner of the Best Foreign Language film award? That man was director, writer and actor, Roberto Benigni and that film was La Vita é Bella or “Life is Beautiful”.
I saw this incredible film for the first time in the 9th grade when we were studying it for English. I appreciated it then, but when I watched it just a few weeks ago, I realized just how magical this film treasure truly is.
To sum it up, it is about love and the extreme actions people will take to protect the ones they love. Guido (Roberto Benigni) is an Italian bookkeeper and later waiter in 1940’s Italy. With to his witty nature and humorous luck, he courts Dora (Nicoletta Braschi), an Italian schoolteacher from an affluent family. They marry and have a son, Giosué (Giorgio Cantarini), who steals the hearts of audiences with his “Buongiorno Principessa!” cry when he sees his mother after hiding in a closet.
However, both Guido and Giosué are Jewish and when German forces occupy Italy, they are sent to a concentration camp and Dora joins them by pretending to be Jewish. In the camp, Guido makes up an elaborate story and convinces Giosué that everything is a competition and he will win a tank if he completes all the games successfully. This includes hiding from German officers and playing hide-and-seek with German children. The first person to reach 1000 points wins the game. Guido also finds intelligent ways to communicate to Dora that they aren’t in danger.
When the war draws to its end, the camp is in chaos and Guido has to make one last sacrifice to ensure both Giosué and Dora’s safety.
It’s a romantic comedy, a war-drama and so much more, but the overall film? Pure magic!