Reviewed by: Artie Megibben
Starring: Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, Giustino Durano, Sergio Bini Bustric, Marisa Paredes / Director: Roberto Benigni
One is reminded of the innocent charm of the early silent films of Chaplin and Buster Keaton when viewing “Life is Beautiful”, Roberto Begnini’s Cannes-winning new film.
The movie opens in the hills of Tuscanny at the beginning of the second World War. Our hapless hero played by actor/writer/director Begnini meets a beautiful young teacher whom he woos with the help of Santa Maria and a few coincidences. The couple marry and produce a child. Italian fascism gives way to Nazi Anti-Semitism and the couple find themselves deported to a German concentration camp on the day of their son’s birthday. Through a series of imaginative lies and more coincidences, the clever father protects his son by convincing him that it is all an elaborate game. Poignantly, the audience sees that no matter how bizarre the father’s white lies become, nothing is more far-fetched and unbelievable than the horrible truth of ovens and genocide.
The movie does an amazing job of marrying the slapstick antics we’ve seen in films Begnini’s earlier “Johnny Toothpick”, with the tragedy of the Holocaust. And like movies such as “Schindler’s List” and “The Hiding Place”, it reminds us that modern man is neither basically good nor particularly evolved.
However, there is always hope even in the deepest pit. For Corrie Ten Boom, it was in knowing Christ. For a little Jewish boy, it was a Father who willingly sacrifices his own life and provides his son a sort “Hiding Place” in a myth that was more credible than the truth.