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4.5 out of 5 stars331
4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 30 July 2008
Although i understand the viewpoints of those people who have only rated this as a 1 star, i would have to disagree. the common dislike seems to be that it is inappropriate to make a 'comedy' with the central theme being the holocaust. i however do not think that that is what this film is supposed to be. The comic beginning of the film is intended to make the viewer find the irrepressible main character impossible not to love. this in turn serves only to heighten the incredible sadness and feelings of loss that the rest of the film conveys. it is a dark, beautiful and moving film. The use of comedy, in my opinion is that which makes the holocaust theme hit home more than any amount of pathos ever could. I can't help but find this to be one of the most moving films i have ever seen. i entirely recommend it, so long as you are not looking for a comedy, but rather a unique look at the terrible happenings of this period of history.
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on 27 August 2004
I spent a long time trying to think of an adequate word to describe this film after I had watched it and that was the only one that came close to doing it justice. Put quite simply this film is a masterpiece. The menagerie of emotions it evokes is unlike anything I have ever witnessed. You'll laugh until tears stream down your cheeks, you will try your hardest to bite back tears and when the film is over you will sit in abject silence, merely thinking about what you have just witnessed. Whether you adore it or not it cannot be denied that Life Is Beautiful is a film you simply cannot forget as quickly as you turn it off.
Roberto Benigni slides into the role of Guido easily, a role that he puts his stamp on and makes unforgettable almost immediately. I will refrain from writing a synopsis as this is already provided although the story itself is fantastically written, dividing the film into two halves. One light and humorous the other dark and poignant yet still retaining a few laughs ('...because I just had to have a jam sandwich!').
The only recommendation I can make to those watching it for the first time is to forget about the dubbing. Watch it through in the original Italian with english subtitles and it makes for a much more enjoyable watch. The emotion given to Guido by Benigni is portrayed through his words as well as actions and the effect is all but lost in the dubbing.
I was surprised to hear from a friend recently that a lot of people considered this film controversial. Apparently it is insensitive to the topic and approaches it in a manner that lacks the proper respect. Never have I heard such contrived nonsense.
The film deals with its subject matter in an extremely unique way, choosing to consentrate on Guido's love for his son and the way in which it is this love that makes him persevere (see the scene in which he gets back from working in the camp and instantly changes his expression upon seeing his son) rather than merely opting for the usual shock values of the camps. If you want a film without anything uplifting, if you're looking for a doom and gloom picture about the visual images of life in the concentration camps them opt for Schindlers list. Life is Beautiful goes further than this. It shows the development of a man, a man whose life revolves around his interactions with other people, a man whose love for his son is so much that his resolve cannot be broken even by the harshest of treatment of conditions. But most of all Life is Beautiful is about emotions in their simplest forms. Whether its love, laughter, fear or sorrow, you will find and feel them all with this film. One thing I can guarantee you is this, by the end of the film you will certainly be debating its title.
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on 27 November 2001
What a great shame that foreign films do not get the acclaim that they truly deserve. The problem with us Brits is that we are brainwashed into thinking that should a film not come out of Hollywood, then it surely can't be worth watching....can it? Roberto Benigni's masterpiece (which I truly believe in years to come will go down in film history as one of the all-time greats) is set in Italy against the back-drop of WWII, the Holocaust and a fathers determination to shield his naive and simplistic young son from the horrors of it all. The film is a roller coaster of emotions and in the space of 5 minutes it can make you laugh out loud, cry in despair and then cry for joy. Any film that can do that is a film worth watching. The dialogue is stunning as is the acting and forget the fact that it is in Italian with subtitles, it was the way the film was meant to be. If you love good films and belive in life outside the Hollywood glitz, go on....treat yourself to a true classic.
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on 4 October 2009
This film is as beautiful as life according to the title. Undoubtedly, it will have added to my overall appreciation and understanding that I am Italian and did not need to see this subtitled, but even so, I am frankly staggered to find that so many people were outraged by this sweet, tender little gem of a film. La Vita E' Bella does not minimise the crimes of Nazism, and the suffering of thousands of innocents during WWII.

What it does is tell the story, heart-warming and -wrenching at the same time, of a man who so dearly loves his son that he will not have him tainted by the horrors of the concentration camp, and thus does every thing he can think of to make the little boy believe that the corpses around him are just pretending, just taking part in a complex game where people only look like they get shot and hurt.

Why would Benigni, I wonder, go to such pains to invent a whole new reality for his child, if he did not fully comprehend and condemn the terrible events as they really happened? The film is not trying to re-write history. It is simply showing how, through the force of fatherly love, an innocent may be taught to smile, and hope, and never to despair. If that's not a message worthy of the big screen I don't know what is.

If you haven't watched this film, please approach it without prejudice. Approach it not as a slanderous lie, but as the story of how imagination may save a human soul.
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on 27 July 2000
First of all, let me clarify that whoever said that you can't make a comedy about the Holocaust was right, and that's why this film stops being a comedy the moment Guido, Giosue and Dora enter the concentration camp. the first half of the movie is a romantic comedy, basically designed to set up Guido's character and capacity for unquestioning, absolute love. The second half takes place in a concentration camp, into which Guido and his family are deported. The movie then turns from comedy to heartbreaking tragedy. Benignis achievement is absolutely unique, in that he shows all the madness of the holocaust, but no violence, which is not necessary because all happens in the viewer's mind. I was not only terrified and touched to the heart, when the movie was over, I cried like I've never cried at a movie before( with the exception of Schindler's List.) Words cannot describe the emotional density of this movie. It surely was the best film in 98 and should have got the Best Picture Oscar. If it had been an American film, it would have.
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on 10 January 2006
Smiling my way through the first half of this film, I was totally unprepared for the heart-wrenching second half. What a film! It's like watching Amelie for an hour and then finding yourself in Schindler's List.
I believe that it has been criticised for making light of the Holocaust and its horrors, but I think this is entirely unjustified. There have been many films that have, quite rightly, focussed on the grim and terrible realities of the death camps. For the sake of our future the awful past of the Holocaust has been embedded in our collective memory, and it is right that it should be there, and occasionally be refreshed by such films as 'The Pianist'. And it is because of this deeply embedded knowledge that 'Life Is Beautiful' touches us so deeply.
It is because we know that the children really disappeared that we flinch at Joshua's game of hide and seek. It is because we know about the soap and buttons that his father's joking cuts us to the quick. Laughing at jokes about marmalade when we can see the starvation all around is an incredibly moving way to access the 'gallows humour' which surely survived in these places.
The humour and fairy-tale beauty of the first half lead us into the grim reality of the second, clutching desperately at the straw of a happy ending. We know it is unlikely, improbable, impossible, but we long for this family to survive and be reunited.
I won't give away the ending, but I will say that even knowing how it all turns out I can't wait to see this film again - hopefully one day in a cinema so that I can weep buckets without the cat staring at me. (No, that doesn't give away the end, because I think I cried almost continuously for the last hour - and I'm generally a hard-headed cynic.)
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on 24 June 2006
How can the horror of the holocaust be expressed in film? No words or pictures can be adequate. That is why even films such as Schindler's List are ultimately not satisfying - they attempt something that cannot be done.

The genius of this film is that it succeeds, not by recounting horror upon endless horror, but with gentle, tender, heartbreaking understatement.

The effect is more powerful than any other filmed treatment of the topic could be.

The starkest moment in the film involves the Nazi doctor in the concentration camp who recognises Guido as the waiter with whom he used to share riddles. The doctor is greatly excited and seeks a private interview. Guido experiences a glimpse of hope,the prospect of imminent escape. The shared passion for word games seems to be a bond that has sparked compassion, awakened a heart to the ties that link one human with another. The conclusion of this incident is bleak. We see humanity at its most shameful, not in conscious cruelty, but in the complete lack of self-awareness and understanding that is the result of self-obsession.

This film will make you laugh, but it will also make you cry. It left me with a blank feeling within, touched me as if I had personally been involved in some event that I mourned for. I have not felt like this about any other film.

This is the undoubtedly the best film that I have ever seen.
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on 11 June 2000
Benigni's performance is extraordinary. This rather slapstick, stereotypical Italian clown captures the heart, perhaps even the soul in his tragic tale of holocaust and hope.
Benigni's direction and effotless acting attempts to define the undefinable: love between a parent and child. It is a love of utter self-giving. In his darkest hour, when facing a certain death, Guido can still defend his son's innocence.
Amidst toys and terror, Benigni juxtaposes guns and giggles. It is a masterpiece of subtlety and feeling.
Perhaps one could argue that Benigni captures the very essence of humanity - in the depths of the darkest tragedy, still lives the brightest of hopes, the new future personified in Guido's son Joshua, and his great joy as he realises the tank (and the future) are his.
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With this opening line, Roberto Benigni, Director, lead character, and writer (with Vincenzo Cerami) of this film, establishes its symbolic, rather than realistic, emphasis. Set in 1930s Italy, the film opens as a slapstick comedy, with the rubber-faced Benigni (who won the Academy Award as Best Actor for this role) playing Guido Orifice, a hyperactive clown, as he repeatedly surprises a beautiful young woman, acts as the clever hotel waiter, and attempts to exchange hats with men he meets.
Despite the frantic comedy, however, the fascist dictatorship and the growing anti-semitism loom constantly in the background, as Guido's uncle (Giustino Durano) is assaulted, his horse is painted green, and a local school principal talks about getting rid of defectives. After a lovely segue to represent the passage of six years or so, we again see Guido, now married to his beautiful Dora (Nicoletta Braschi), and meet Giosue Orifice, his son, winningly played by six-year-old Giorgio Cantorini. Totally committed to protecting his son from the horrors of anti-semitism, Giorgio turns everything into a joke.
When the family is eventually rounded up and shipped to a concentration camp, Guido turns the event into a "birthday surprise" for Giosue and tries to ensure his survival by pretending that all the events are part of a huge game, with the winner getting a full-sized tank. Disappearances from the camp are explained as people dropping out of the game.
In some ways, Guido's game-playing sets the reality of the concentration camps into sharp relief, intensifying the horror by showing the lengths to which a father will go to protect the innocence of his child. The viewer knows that the game is a pitiful, and ultimately hopeless, attempt to hold back the reality of the Final Solution but cannot help hoping that against all odds, somehow Guido and Giosue will win. The horrors of the Holocaust are obvious here, and the ironies of seeing both Guido and his captors all playing some sort of macabre "game" will not be lost on the viewer.
I thoroughly enjoyed Benigni's pratfalls, his touching attention to his family, the music (by Nicola Piovani, which also won an Academy Award), and the cleverness of the plot. But I also found that my realistic knowledge of the Holocaust was so overwhelming I could not "suspend [my] disbelief," and I was unable to appreciate the film as the wonder-filled "fable" Benigni intended. Mary Whipple
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on 16 May 2004
I watched the DVD two days ago, and it has haunted me since. It's wonderful, magical, but it's also fantasy. Those reviewers who have given it only one star, having taken objection to the treatment of the holocaust, are entitled to be listened to, and I should hope that everyone would read what they have to say, because, on the standpoint from which they have chosen to view it, their criticism is valid. However, this is a film about the human spirit and a father's love for his family; stark reality is not the subject here. I watched Schindlers' List and The Pianist with my hands mostly over my eyes, harrowing, necessary, but not all films have to beat you over the head with the nastiness of life. We still have enough of that in the real world, it seems.
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