Friday, April 03, 2009

World Movie Series - 13 - La vita è bella

Everyone wants a great life; a happy life ahead, where we can live cheerfully with our family and kids. Imagine a gleeful life disrupted all of a sudden by a tragedy. How will the family react to this sudden chaos? In What way will the family take the blow? Will it be in total disarray or will it be united under such circumstances?

Life is beautiful is one such moving story of a family caught in the Second World War.

Gildo an Italian Jew comes to Aresso, an Italian town, to set up a bookstall during 1939. He works as a waiter, till he sets up the stall. While in Aresso, he meets a beautiful Italian girl Dora. Gildo falls in love with Dora, and he cleverly creates situations in such a way that whenever they meet, Dora believes that it is purely accidental, and slowly falls in love with him. She is all set to marry her neighbor from the childhood, but doesn’t like it. On the wedding day, she secretly meets Guido and pleads him to take her with him. Guido abducts Dora in using a horse and they set up their own sweet family. Years go by, and they have a lovely son Joshua. Together, it is one happy family.

The period is now the Second World War, and all the Jews are captured and tortured by the German army. One day, Dora’s mother visits their house. It is Joshua’s birth day. Dora picks up her mother, and when they are on the way to her home, the house has been rummaged through, and Guido and Joshua are missing. Since Dora is a non-Jew belonging to a wealthy family, she has some German connections, and learns that Guido and Joshua are on a train along with the other Jews. She too demands to be taken in the train, and after an argument, the officers accept.

The train goes to a concentration camp. All the prisoners are taken inside the camp. Women and men are separately positioned inside. While on their way inside, Guido tells Joshua it’s all a game, and the rules of the game are quite complicated. Every day, by doing whatever the officers tell them to do, they will earn points, and the first one to get thousand points will be sent home with a real tank as a gift. Joshua believes everything, and is happy that he too is part of the game. Guido further tells Joshua that if Joshua cries for his mother or for food, then points will be deducted from him, and if he hides inside from the officers, he will earn more and more points.

Every day, when Joshua sees Guido work hard in the camp, Guido makes Joshua to believe that he is building the tank. He also succeeds in making Joshua to stay in the camp by convincing him every time Joshua feels like going back to home. Guido also cleverly makes Dora to know that they both are alive by talking in the mike in the deserted control room and broadcasting it all through the camp, and by broadcasting the opera music which they both know.

Gradually, all the children in the camp are killed. Joshua is the only one to be alive, as he hides inside every time he sees an officer, to gain more points in the ‘game’. One day, there is commotion all over, and German soldiers are running everywhere. It is the end of the war, and the American soldiers are marching inside the city. Guido hides his son inside a big box at a corner of the camp and tells him to come out only if he doesn’t hear any noise, and only if everyone have gone away, as this is the last day of the game, and if he does so, he will win the tank. Having said so, he goes to find Dora. While he is searching Dora, gets captured by the German soldiers, and is shot to death. Even when he is taken by the guards to be shot, he makes his son, peeping from the box, to laugh, by doing funny movements.

Next day, when all the sounds have ceased, the little boy slowly comes out, and there is a lot of debris. He walks among them as the sole living being inside the camp. A tank comes to him, and an American soldier gives him a lift. Joshua thinks it is given to him as a gift, as he successfully finished the game. On his way, Joshua spots his mom among the survivors, and gets reunited with her. The film ends when the son tells us that this was the
beautiful story of his father’s courage and determination to make his son happy.

Guido makes us all to cry when he makes his son to laugh in the movie. There are many interesting scenes on it, like the scene where Guido spots a doctor whom he knew earlier, who is now treating all the prisoners. The doctor seems to have a plan in his mind to help Guido out, and he meets Guido secretly. Guido pathetically tells the doctor that his wife too has been taken in as a prisoner, and the doctor hurriedly tells Guido a puzzle and wants to know the answer! Guido gets heartbroken, as the doctor doesn’t seem to understand the situation and wants Guido to help him out with the answer.

There is also the scene when the German officials come to the camp, asks anyone to translate what they say, and Guido accepts, starts to tell all the rules of the game instead, and the son becomes happy, thinking that it is for real and the officers indeed are briefing everyone with the rules.

This Italian film was released in 1997 and is directed by Roberto Benigni. It won three Oscars for best actor, best foreign language film and best music – original dramatic score. Benigni himself acted as Guido and his real life wife Nicoletta Braschi acted as Dora. Benigni says the title comes from a quote by Leon Trotsky. In exile in Mexico, knowing he was about to be killed by Stalin's assassins, he saw his wife in the garden and wrote that, in spite of everything, "Life is beautiful".

See the trailer here.


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