Life is beautiful - for whom ?
Life is beautiful movie was awarded best foreign language film by the academy in 1998. Do you know the other 2 good nominations in the same year ? Answer at the end of the review.
Life doesn't become beautiful for all. In fact, for those, who met with a tragedy, it becomes one. You might have come across the horror movie series SAW.. the serial killer is a 70+ years old cancer patient and sees the other people, how they waste their valuable life.. Also, he kills them for their unimportance about life :). A small tragedy opens up the door.
As I mentioned in 'The counterfeiters' review, there were 300+ movies made on Holocaust, till now. The difference in Life is Beautiful is that it involves a kid and the hero is clownish. A father can take his 4 year kid to a park or a zoo. This father in Life is Beautiful happens to accompany his kid to the concentration camp. We do answer our kids about any damn question, they ask for. How can one explain about mass murder to a kid ?
Every director has their dream to direct a movie based on God Father in their own variation [ Nayagan, Devar magan, Sarkar ] Similarly on holocaust, everyone has tried their own version and Roberto Benigni overtakes others by mixing the right flavours of emotions.
Life is Beautiful [ 1997 / Italian / Comedy-tragedy-war ]
Cast : Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, Giorgio Cantarini
Co-written, produced and Directed by : Roberto Benigni
The film begins with this dialog in the voice-over. "This is a simple story but difficult one to tell. Like a fable, there is sorrow, and like a fable, it is full of wonder and happiness." - It's a fable which one can't forget easily !
Before the World War II in Italy, Guido [ Roberto Benigni ] and his friend travel to the city to find job.Also, they plan to open a bookstore. Meanwhile, he works as a waiter and he comes across a school teacher named Dora [ Nicoletta Braschi ]. Guido’s funny behaviour and charm eventually make Dora to fall in love with him. They marry and lead a peaceful life. Later, they have a son named Joshua [Giorgio Cantarini]. 5 Years passes by. Till this point, the movie is just a funny flick.
The big game starts. Since Guido is Jewish, and he and his son are forced to settle in a concentration camp; Dora, though she is not Jewish, refuses to separate and is sent with them. Trying to protect his son from the horrors others are undergoing, Guido creates a fiction for them to live inside: they're playing a game, a contest, and they must play it to the hilt in order to win the first prize: a real, live army tank. A tough time for a father to hide out the tragic attributes of a camp and interpreting the entire setup as a game to his son. He makes his son to believe too.
What happens then ? You know for sure that it's not a feel good story.
- The film symbolises a journey and through out the journey, Guido is able to sustain his faith in humanity and a hard desire to survive in life.
- At no point, the holocaust's horror is cheapened by the humour of Guido. The sense of horror is actually intensified as the audience is left with a joke and they can't laugh for it.
- Benigni's father spent 2 years in German concentration camp. He shared his experiences to his family members in a comical way so that the kids are not frightened. That's the knot and essence of the movie.
- Benigni was initially a stand-up comedian in his initial stages of his career. [ like Woody Allen ].
- The film starts in a lighter way with some slapstick moments.[ break less car, girl falling from her house, dashing on someone ]. The director cleverly prepares the audience for a dangerous ride in the later part of the movie. [ Sethu follows this technique ! ]
- Benigni's original wife played as his wife in this movie. [ May be because of the concentration camp :) ]
- One of the touching scenes is that a person who is supposed to help Guido talks about something else, when asked for help, in the hotel.
- Guido mocks the soldier's walk - at first we smile on it.. but during the second time we can't. the wink they make at each other stumps the viewers.
- Here Guido's life and his unconditional love is shown with respect to holocaust and not in the reverse. It's about to what extent can a person go to save his beloved ones in crisis times.
- Though it's a drama to keep a kid in the concentration camp, the impact it makes is tremendous.
-Life is Beautiful does not detail on the horrors of the camp, nor it ignores them. The second half of the movie is more emotional and emphasise love and the power of desire to survival at the best.
- I need to appreciate Benigni for casting himself for the Guido character - it's tailor made. He chose what comes to him, best [ Like MGR.. MGR never chose a character which doesn't fit him - a retired officer ! ] Also, selection of the boy character is a fantastic move. His innocence can never be forgotten.
Comedy is used to emphasise the tragedy and the director Benigni wins. He crosses the thin line of making concentration camp as a funny place.
A father of a girl child can't digest 'Mahanadhi'. Similarly, a boy's father can't digest "Life is Beautiful" [ Of course, a father is a father ! ]. Great films n stories deal with unconditional love [ Hotel Rwanda, Kikujiro, Anbe sivam - Mother superior, The way home, Schindler's list ] and this film does the same.
அன்பின் பாதை சேர்ந்தவனுக்கு
மனதின் நீளம் எதுவோ அதுவே
வாழ்வின் நீளமடா !
Life is Beautiful won 3 academy awards [ best foreign film, Best actor, Best original score ]. The other foreign movies nominated were Children of heaven [ kaaviyam ! ] and Central station [ Brazilian version of Kikujiro ].