L for Life is Beautiful

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Whatever it is, wherever it is, whenever it is and however it is, Life is Beautiful. Life is beautiful in love, life is beautiful in war, life is beautiful in misery, life is beautiful in happiness, life is beautiful in despair, and life is beautiful in contentment. In all its absurdity, craziness, wisdom, reasonableness and paradoxes, it remains an enigma but above all else life is just simply beautiful.

Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful loudly and clearly tells us, that amidst the worse we can still find humor and keep the spirit high. Life is Beautiful or La Vida Es Bella, is an Italian movie directed by and acted by Roberto Benigni as Guido and has other star casts like Nicoletta Brashci as Dora, Giorgio Cantarini as Giosue, Giustino Durano as Uncle and Sergio Bustric as Ferruccio.

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Guido is a lovable, goofy character who, wants to open a bookstore therefore works part time as a waiter  to save up as much as he can. In the mean time he meets Dora and after an enchanting courtship they get married and have a son they name Giosue. Slowly the movie moves forward into World War II and its imminence is succinctly brought about when Guido asks a man about his political views and he turns around to reprimand his sons as “Benito, Adolfo! Be Good!”

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Though some critics are of the view that the movie somehow mellows and trivializes the grief and tragedy of the victims of World War II, on the contrary with all its buffoonery it points out to the abject absurdity of the situation. When Giosue wonders why a “no Jew or Dogs allowed” sign was on the window of a bakery, Guido tells him with an undertone of outrage that it’s a matter of personal choice and that “No Spiders or Visigoths” sign would make as much sense as the latter.

Later when the family is deported to the concentration camp Guido tells his son that this was part of a big game that they were all playing and points would be given at every stage and the winner would be awarded with a tank in the end. When the Jews are shoved into a dark train with no windows or seats Guido exclaims to his bewildered son “What, Seats on a train? Its obvious you have never been in one!” When they arrive at the prison camp and they have to wait in a huge queue, Guido explains that everyone is eagerly waiting to get in and start playing the game and win the prize. At the camp he volunteers to translate a Nazi officer’s command into Italian (and he knows not a word of German). He shouts out “we play part of the real mean guys who yell,” pointing out to the officers and he also translates some as, “don’t ask for lollipops, you don’t get any. We eat them all.”

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At the camp Guido works in grueling, back breaking conditions yet never for a moment loses patience with the child and keeps telling him to play the part and stay hidden from the officers because he was close to winning the tank. At the very end, Guido is caught by the German soldiers and marched out, but he manages to hide his son and tells him not to come out until there was no one in sight. He knows that his son will be watching him from his hiding spot, and he creates a comic moment even as he is marched out. The viewers know the fate that lies awaiting for Guido but the child is blissfully ignorant about it. In the morning when not a soul was in sight, he comes out of his hiding and his jaws drop to see a big tank approaching him. An English soldier comes out of the tank and lifts him up onto it. His prize for winning the game, or the English winning the war, and just as his father told him he got the tank rather a ride on it.

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The movie in the end is a story of a father’s sacrifice in keeping his son safe. Guido had the gift of comedy and quick improvisation and that’s the tool he used to keep his son away from harm’s way, had he possessed a weapon he would have probably used that to keep him safe. Life is Beautiful is a moving tale of the dauntless human spirit.

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Is Guido a brave soldier? Isnt he? He keeps his family safe just like the soldiers who give up their lives to keep the country safe. Guido is no less – he is a lion hearted, fearless soldier who keeps his son unscathed from the unspeakable crime that was the reality for months on end. A father who teaches love, a father who accentuates that no matter what, Life is Beautiful.

I leave you with one scene from Life is Beautiful

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One thought on “L for Life is Beautiful

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