Life Is Beautiful Essay, Research Paper
“Life is Beautiful”, directed and produced by Roberto Benigni, is a film that attempts to portray the horrors of the Holocaust and the Nazi Regime with compassion and comedy. Guido, the leading character played by Roberto Benigni, is a Jewish waiter who moves to a large Italian city to explore his dreams of owning a bookstore. Guido meets an enchanting woman named Dora, played by Nicoletta Braschi, and wins her heart over with his eccentric optimism and his poetic speech. Despite their obvious differences they get married have a child, Giosue`, played by Giorgio Cantarin. As the story unfolds the Italian City becomes more and more infatuated with racism. Guido’s store is overcome with graffiti proclaiming that the bookstore is a Jewish bookstore and is there fore condemned.
They family, despite their surroundings, is perfectly happy. Guido and Dora are much in love and they have a beautiful son that promises to live up to Guido’s genius. To this family life is truly beautiful. This illusion does not last long, however, for the Nazi Regime soon comes to sweep Guido and his son away to a concentration camp. Dora is told that she is free to go home, but out of love for her husband and her son she demands to board the train leading to exile.
Guido insists on protecting his son from the horrors of the camp. He goes to great measures to make Giosue` believe that the whole thing is staged as a game and the first one to get 1000 points gets a brand new tank. He tells Giosue` fibs like, we can’t see “mommy” because the women are on a different team, trying to protect his naivete. Giosue` is ecstatic about the game for he loves tanks more than anything in the world, but as he spends more time at the camp he only can think morbid thoughts and he very badly wants to go home.
Through out Giosue`’s time spent in the camp he adverts death several times. To better illustrate, it is learned early on that Giosue` hates taking baths or showers. When he arrives at the camp he is rounded up with the other children to take a deadly gas shower, but because of his hatred for hygiene Giosue` hides and escapes the fatal shower. For the rest of their sentence Guido hides and protects Giosue`, keeping him safe even at the risk of loosing his own life.
In the end riot breaks out, as the Germans are defeated in the war. Guido makes sure that Giosue` has a safe hiding place to stay until the Nazis leave the camp. He also tries to ensure that Dora is safe, but while searching for her a Nazi cruelly shoots him from around the corner, his death is displayed only by the sound of a machine gun.
The next mourning the Nazi Regime fleas the camp and the Jews that had successfully hidden emerge from their hiding places, among them is Giosue` who climbs out a metal box only to see a stunning tank crawling towards him. He expresses that his father had not failed him and that they had won the game. An American Soldier climbs out and lifts the boy into the tank and as they drive on Dora appears from the crowd, alive and well, the film then ends with no word from Guido, conveying that he is in fact dead.
“Life is Beautiful”, although moving, seems to be more a mockery of the Holocaust rather than an accurate account of events. After viewing the first half of the film one might feel entertained by the witty, comical dialogue and the fanciful characters. A simple story line develops as Guido tries to win the heart of Dora. From the first time Dora and Guido meet it is painfully obvious that they will end up married or in love and together in some way. Once the news of their marriage comes it seems as though the humorous and enlightening story will draw to a close, but at that exact moment the family is swept away to a horrible concentration camp.
While living in very racist times in the Italian City Guido never acts uncomfortable, scared or hurt by the racism circulating around him and his family. Most Jews involved in such racist situations were miserable and feared for their lives, but not the optimistic Guido appeared to be unaffected.
While in the concentration camp Guido’s optimism is not weakened by the brutally hard work or even the sight of a pyre standing four stories tall. He seems to have super human optimism and since he is the only Jewish character described in any detail in “Life is Beautiful” one might conclude that the camps were not all that bad. One might consider that the Jews were cheerful at all times, unaffected by the atrocities that ruled their lives in the camps. This notion is, however, false. Jews that lived in the concentration camps were generally over come with despair and sorrow to the point of becoming mentally numb.
In the final scene Giosue` is picked up by an American tank, this seems to signify that the Americans are the heroes and that they solved all conflicts unselfishly, rescuing the Jews from the camps and the Nazi regime. I was appalled at this scene, for it gave the false sense that Americans are altruistic in nature. The truth is that the US only drove the Nazis out of the camps because they were their enemies in the war and defeating them was in their best interest. Before the Nazi regime posed any threat to the US, our government just sat back as reports of horrendous Holocaust activities rolled in. Our government did nothing to stop the massive human rights violations amounting in Europe until it was clear that the Nazis posed a serious threat to our democratic influence in the world.
Although “Life is Beautiful” is an inspiring and entertaining film, it does little to accurately communicate the horrible events of the Holocaust.