11. Life is beautiful

After watching the pianist, I began to uncover a theme in my current batch of discs from Lovefilm. The premise for this film sounded very similar to my previous viewing experience, so I settled in for another heavy bout of misery. I could not have been more wrong.

An unlikely looking chap for the lead of a drama, the charisma of Guido Orefice (not pronounced "Orifice" I think) is enthusiastically portrayed by Roberto Benigni.

To be honest, Life is Beautiful defies easy description. Set in Italy (made in Italy by the looks of it), the film’s main protagonist is an irrepressibly cheerful man, one of those annoying types who makes friends wherever he goes. Gifted with a vivid imagination and no limit to his ambition, he spends the first part of the film setting up his dreams, from having decent hat to being with the woman he desires the most. And so the first half of the production plays out like a heart-warming comedy- for there are many laughs throughout.

Yes, that's our star in women's clothes in a concentration camp. A pretty good metaphor for the incongruity of his personality against the backdrop of the situation.

There follows a sudden jump in time; our main character and his wife now have a child and seem perfectly happy. However, to cut a long story short, the situation where they live gets progressively worse as the Fascist government asserts its influence, and they end up embarked to a concentration camp. At this point I was wondering where the film was going, because surely the characters couldn’t maintain any semblance of the happiness they felt before without the film going completely off the rails. But they do, and the film doesn’t suffer for it. In the face of adversity and the prospect of the industrial murder that could happen to any member of his family, the main character continues to produce moments that spark laughter for the audience. The ending of the film is very touching, although I won’t spoil it for you. Suffice to say I won’t forget him marching off.

The family together. The sentimentality of the film is combined with poignancy and pathos.

Again, a question as to why this is categorised as a war film, but a good drama and one of the most unusual productions I’ve seen.



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