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on November 13, 1999
Okay, a few folks have said they did not like this film. Fair enough, I didn't like Good Will Hunting.
But let's take a look here. If you know what this film is all about, then the first half of it will astound you. I mean, egg on faces? It comes startingly close to Benny Hill for 'want of a laugh track'.
Ahh, but the warmth grows on you, and then...
The second half.
Few scenes are as emotional as when Guido has to reassure his son that the Jews 'aren't going to be made into soap.' The film takes a turn for the harshness and doesn't let up.
Schindler's List was a phenomenal film, showing the utter horror of the holocaust, but it missed one thing: the notion of hope. No one in Spielberg's masterpiece continually believes that 'life is beautiful'. All we see is the horror, the downfall, the pain. And while that makes for a fantastic dramatic punch, it negates any humor or spirit the prisoners may have had to blanket themselves from the harshness, and this humor surely existed.
Guido knows very soon that he is going to die. But, the love for his son outweighs the need to DISPLAY hopelessness. If nothing else, he must protect his son. So he convinces him it's all a game. Simple, buffoonish...
and damn identifiable. Who here can honestly say they wouldn't do anything they could to protect their sons/daughters from knowing the biggest evil on Earth? Guido manages to keep his son involved in 'the game' while he himself knows it will most likely end according to an evil thought.
The end scene, where Guido realizes he is going to be killed, and yet does a goofy march to make his son laugh, is one of the most powerful sights to ever be associated with the trauma the Nazi's inflicted on the world.
If you didn't like this film, fine. But don't say it mocked the Holocaust. If anything, it's a tribute to the flame of life that wouldn't be blown out.
Laughter seeps into any tradegy, if the love for life is there. Anne Frank said something to the effect that 'in spite of all this, I still feel people are good in heart'. She had hope.
She knew life was beautiful.
-CS
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on April 26, 2000
Put the children to bed, unplug the phone, get out the tissues and refuse to watch this movie with anybody who likes to talk during a movie. You will be blown away.
Holocaust and comedy. Two words never spoken in the same breath before "Life is Beautiful." To smiply label this movie as such, would do it injustice. Every emotion comes into play during the viewing. You soon begin to empathize with Roberto Benigni as he portrays a father trying to keep the harsh realities of a German concentration camp from his young son. Benigni protects his son with two weapons that the German's could not seize: Humor and Imagination.
I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, and yes I cried. But I also laughed and smiled.
I recommend the Sub-title version of the movie. After five minutes the reading becomes natural and the depth to which you become involved with the movie is well worth it.
I so enjoyed the music in this movie, that I purchased "Tales of Hoffman" by Offenbach. The second playing of this piece in the movie will not allow you to maintain dry eyes.
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When Roberto Benigni burst onto the Hollywood scene with this acclaimed film and his over-the-top enthusiasm, I couldn't bring myself to watch this film. Instead, I waited for the DVD. However, what I perceived as hype was truly deserved. "Life is Beautiful" is a wonderfully inventive tale that seems fresh even today, years after its first release. Part slapstick, part drama, part romantic comedy, part tragedy - this story of an Italian family during the Holocaust defies categorization.
The films opens with Guido (Benigni) and his friend arriving in town on a car with no brakes and being mistaken for facist officials expected for a parade. This slapstick scene ends with Guido catching the future love of his life, Dora (Nicoletta Braschi), as she jumps from a barn window. The clownish Guido sets out to win her heart despite the odds against him. These early scenes set the stage for the rest of the movie: Guido will rely on invention, humor, and persistence to protect his loved ones despite the obstacles he faces. What begins as slapstick becomes heartbreaking later. Like all stories of the Holocaust, this film has its grim side, but Benigni relies heavily on exaggerated humor, running gags, and an early circus-like atmosphere to set up the emotional power of the time's reality. Most of the atrocities are implied, not witnessed, and the viewer's own knowledge of the time period creates an additional layer of tension.
Roberto Benigni is superb as Guido; his antics are hilarious, but during more dire moments, emotions flash across his face, revealing both the depth of his character and the reality of his position. Nicoletta Braschi is also good, and little Giorgio Cantinini as Guido?s son Joshua is adorably spunky, especially as he questions his father's stories.
I always advocate watching foreign films in the original language, with subtitles, but I understand that some viewers may not like "reading" a movie. In this case, however, the dubbed version was distracting, as Benigni provides the English track for his own character while American voices dub the rest of the cast. His Italian accent amid the American accents completely broke the illusion for me. Still, if a dubbed version is the only way you'll watch this movie, please do it.
I highly recommend "Life is Beautiful." Its offbeat approach remains unparalleled in the canon of Holocaust movies. Because of the absence of explicit violence and sex, viewers as young as thirteen should admire this extraordinary film.
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on February 21, 2000
I watched this movie with a Holocaust survivor. She said afterward it was the one movie she had seen that did entire justice to the Holocaust, because it showed that the only way to make it through and still be remotely sound in mind was to create a fantasy world for oneself, to convince oneself that what one was experiencing was not reality. This movie does not make light of the Holocaust, it shows what strength of spirit it took to get through it. To remain that light-hearted in the midst of probably the greatest tragedy of the 20th century is strength indeed.
I wish that I could give this movie more than 5 stars. I laughed, I cried, and it haunted me for weeks. If you don't see it, you are missing out on the most beautiful movie, both cinematographically and in spirit, that has ever been made.
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on November 19, 1999
I first saw Life is Beautiful last winter, and went to see it three times after that initial viewing. I have never been so moved in my enire life. I would, however, like to comment briefly on the one star reviews posted here. First off, Roberto Benigni did not set out to make this movie a true-to-life documentation of German death camps. Instead, he wanted to show us the incredible power of parental and marital love. Second, this movie was anything but boring. The light, playful music combined with the witty script and Bengini's funny anitcs made it more than entertaining (far better than the contant sex, violence, and poor humor in some American films). And third, if you did not appeciate this movie then you went in seeing it with the wrong attitude. A Jewish friend of mine said it was the best film she ever had seen. My life has chnaged drastically since viewing this film. I hug my parents daily now (I'm 16) and thank them for all their sacrifices. I smile more. I appricate life, because life truly is beautful. I will never, ever forget the last scene, when the little boy falls into his mother's arms and shouts ecsatatically, "We won, we won!".
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on March 17, 2000
This movie is absolutely all it's cracked up to be. Hysterically funny and simultaneously a tear jerker -- it's ultimately very uplifting. The cinematography is also fantastic -- amazing use of color.
The DVD has dubbed english as an option, but I strongly recommend going with the subtitles instead so you can hear Benigni's amazing acting and passion.
Too bad the DVD doesn't include any deleted scenes. With Benigni, I think it would be particularly fun to see out-takes.

Absolutely a great movie!
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on November 29, 1999
First, my impression of the film-I don't think I laughed and cried so much in a long time. Buy it, own it and share it with others!
Now my input on the DVD experience. The disc contains a dubbed version of the film in English. We tried watching this version first, but found the dialogue and story were actually harder to follow than the subtitles! When we started the film over again with the English subtitles "on" we discoved we were missing Roberto's energy and punctuation. Even if you don't understand a word of Italian you need to hear the impact in the actor's voices to appreciate what is being said. Still, if you can't deal with the subtitles you have a choice. Incidently, the sections of the film which feature German dialogue are not dubbed so we still have the same experience as our characters do.
The bonus materials area on the disc features several TV spots (commercials) for the film. No real bonanza here, but there is a brief documentary, "Making Life Beautiful". It features footage from various programs where the film has won awards, etc. It also contains a mini-filmography of other Benigni films and interviews with his various costars. The documentary tone is very promotion oriented spending most of its time patting Benigni and company on the back-deservedly so.
Picture clarity is excellent (what you would expect from a new film) and sound very good as well.
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on January 3, 2000
Roberto Benigni creates pure enchantment in this most touching of films. I loved it with deep intensity. Guido (Benigni's character) is so laden with humor, humanity and passion that you find yourself feeling that you, somehow, know him. He is everyman who's risen above his circumstances to face his destiny with dignity and humor. Benigni walks the finest line of, I believe, any character in modern cinema. Here we have a man facing one of the greatest horrors in history and he does so with a smile and an innate sense of fantasy in order to shield his beloved son from the tragedy that's unfolding around them. This is an enormously human film, touched by genius. I dare anyone to walk away unaffected by this charming and haunting tribute to the endurance of the human spirit. Flawless performances all around and Giorgio Cantarini is so adorable you want to make him your own. What a magical film this is. "Life Is Beautiful" does exactly that: Makes life beautiful. Rent it or buy it; either way, just watch it.
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on March 25, 2000
As a Jewish teen, I was a bit reluctant to see Vita E Bella, but when I sat down, I found myself laughing. I was completely drawn to Benigni's playful antics. I thought of him as the kind of romantic I would like to be. I was particularly amused by how he made fun of the facists, just to amuse some school children. As this movie progressed, I found myself feeling the emotions of the characters. When he arrives in the camps with his son, where innocent people are being worked to death and starved to death, he keeps his son happy, and almost unaware of the suffering. At the end, I wept openly and bitterly. I could not contain the emotion at the end, they were mixes, the most extreme sadness of seeing the Holocaust and what it did to even this one family, and I found myself uplifed spiritually at the love that this man had for his wife and son. The most moving line in the entire film, that still brings tears to my eyes, is the first line spoken by the narrator, who is the young boy
"This is my story, it is a simple story, but it is not an easy one to tell..."
Bravo and Mazel Tov, Benigni! He blew Titanic right out of the Water. Three Oscars is not nearly enough. By the way, hearing it in Italian is one of the best parts, to hear it in English would take so much from this movie...
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on June 13, 2000
"Life is Beautiful" is a pleasant return to movies that express emotion well. This story isn't quite your average WWII hideout plot, though.
In this movie, Roberto Benigni, who plays a funny, romantic father and husband, must cope with the effects of World War II, which has changed his life forever. The movie, however, does not start out darkly- it begins with Benigni romantically persuing a beautiful and kind woman, whom he has fallen in love with. Benigni is very funny, and does wonders with this role. His character uses wit and humor to gain the affection of his object of affection, played by Nicoletta Braschi. Soon they start a family: the two of them, with their young, innocent son.
This is where things take a turn for the worse. The War begins, and Benigni and his son are sent off to a Nazi prison camp, where Jews and other people are being enslaved and killed. Faced with having to explain this to his son, he turns the entire situation into a pretend game, so as not to frighten his son. From here things worsen- but throughout it all, Benigni tries to keep his son happy, refusing to give up on life.
This movie, while very tragic, is also uplifting. It give us a better sense of the value of life when we watch it, and it amuses us at the same time. If you enjoy movies that are funny, romantic, and uplifting, this one is definitely for you.
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