Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Life is Beautiful: A Movie Review

Rarely do I read a book or watch a movie twice, but I will certainly be watching "Life is Beautiful" again and again. It's no wonder it garnered so many Academy Awards.
Stephen and Ben and a bunch of other young people rented it in the Outer Banks last week, and came home with rave reviews, so Paul and I watched it last night with Stephen and Joel. (Stephen knew the one part where Joel would need to "go get us some popcorn and refill our drinks.")

"Life is Beautiful" is the story of an Italian Jewish waiter who uses his wit and brilliant imagination to romance a princess, marry her, and then save his family's life from German Nazis during World War II. A war movie, you say? No thanks? Well, this movie has very little real violence, but rather hints at it in the most moving ways--an antiquated concept in modern cinematics, and tremendously powerful. The main character, played by Roberto Benigni, has an ADHD personality which makes for hilarious physical comedy, but it's his quick one-liners and facial expressions that had me guffawing throughout. His leading lady, whom he always calls "principessa" (princess) is an adoring wife and an endearing mother. The little boy, with his large brown eyes and sweet mouth, is a darling child; you just want to pick him up and squeeze the stuffin' out of him.

Though the dialogue is almost completely in Italian, the script is so enchanting and poignant that following along with English subtitles was not a drawback for me whatsoever. Benigni also wrote and directed the screenplay, making his portrayal as true to his vision as he could have hoped.

There was no foul language and no nudity (though there were a couple times when the man says to his wife-to-be something like "I want to make love to you tonight, two--maybe three times-- if I can.") Nothing offended me except for history itself. No one can "bleep out" history, complete with smoking gas chambers, swastikas, and diabolic dictators. Hitler and Mussolini slaughtered millions of people and left a trail of blood and pain that continue to this day in the memories of my Jewish ancestors--and in my own heart. As the credits rolled, I couldn't stop the rivers of tears. Joel kept asking, "Mom, why are you crying? Dad, why is Mom crying? Mom! Please tell me why you're crying!" I finally choked out the words, "Because it's true, honey. Have you ever heard of Adolph Hitler? He was a very wicked man! He hated people just for being Jewish. He wished everyone could have blue eyes and blonde hair. " I thought how my boys look Aryan but have clearly Jewish roots; which "camp" would Hitler have put them in--the Hitler Youth or a death camp? I can only wonder if their daddy would have had the God-given imagination that this man did which kept his family alive through concentration camps and metal meltdowns.

Anyway, "Life is Beautiful" should go on your short list of must-see movies. I'm gong to check it out again this summer. It's that good.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, that's a great film!

Amy said...

not that I needed to read this post to know that you and I are kindred spirits...but that has been one of my all-time favorite movies ever since I first saw it about 10 or 12 years ago. in fact it's one of the very few I actually own (on VHS, unfortunately).

Laurie said...

Oh yes, it's definitely a must see. It has been awhile since we’ve seen it, but I agree w/ your commentary and am encouraged to watch it again very soon!