Benigni Creates 'Beautiful' Film Out Of The Holocaust
By by BRIANNE WATKINS, Staff Writer
Director, co-writer and star Roberto Benigni's pre-World War II Italy is the enchanting backdrop for the magical power of love and imagination in "Life is Beautiful," which will be shown by FLICS this week.

The film, in Italian with English subtitles, consists of two parts. The first follows a young Jewish man named Guido (Benigni) as he journeys to the Tuscan town of Arrezo with his poet friend Ferruccio.

In Arrezo, the two seek fortune and romance and view life through a lens of humor and joy. Guido becomes a waiter and falls in love with the beautiful schoolteacher Dora (Nicoletta Braschi) when she literally falls out of the sky into his arms. She leaves her fascist fiance for the bumbling charm and childlike innocence of Guido.

Eventually they start a family and have a son, Giosue (Giorgio Cantarini), and Guido finally fulfills his dream of owning his own bookstore.

The scene then shifts as World War II arrives and threatens their beautiful life. Guido and his family cannot escape the anti-Semitism and fascism that surrounds them. Guido, his son and his father are all taken to a concentration camp. Dora is not Jewish, but, not wanting to be separated from her family, she goes to the concentration camp as well.

Guido tries desperately to protect his son from the horrors of the camp. For the sake of Giosue, Guido pretends that the concentration camp is a big game, and that the winner gets a tank.

Some critics find Benigni's treatment of the Holocaust to be disrespectful, claiming that by focusing on Guido's game for his son, he trivializes the horrible event. I disagree. Benigni conveys the horror of the event but does not dwell on it. Instead he focuses on the power of the imagination and the prevailing hope in enduring tests of faith. Also commendable is the heartwarming performance of Giorgio Cantarini as Giosue.

Nominated for seven Academy Awards (and winning three, including Best Foreign Film), "Life is Beautiful" is an extraordinary film.

This poignant and unforgettable tale about the magic of love-the love of a man for a woman, a father for his son and a family for each other-will win your heart.

Issue 03, Submitted 2000-09-18 16:47:46