Director: Roberto Benigni
Cast: Roberto Benigni, nicoletta Braschi,
Screenplay: Roberto Benigni, Vincenzo Cerami
Photography: Tonino Delli Colli
Production: Elda Ferri, Gianluigi Braschi
Distribution: Cecchi Gori
Duration: 2h and 03′
We hope that the optimistic title of Benigni’s latest movie will be a good omen for the new year. It certainly should be for the Tuscan actor, who has won everyone’s respect with his new work in which he produces, directs and plays one of the main characters. He has also caught the interest of that small group of people who disliked him because of his ludicrous and irreverent behaviour.
Together with Vincenzo Cerami, he wrote the screenplay, starting from the story of the Nazis, with the intention of demonstrating that though nowadays life is often full of terrible ugliness and sad truths, it is beautiful and worth living.
The movie deals with the horrors and madness of the Nazi concentration camps and the Aryan policy. Fortunately he manages to overcome these things because of his love for his wife and son, whose mental well-being he protects. Benigni demonstrates that he is now more adult, that he has grown up and acquired a certain knowledge, awareness and respect for others which we never knew he had.
In this movie he is neither the anticlerical despiser he was in “Il
Piccolo Diavolo”, nor nasty, irresponsible but witty character he played in “Johnny Stecchino”, nor the caricature in “Il Mostro”. In these old movies he tried to emphasize certain behaviour, events and situations belonging to modern life.
In “La vita è bella” Benigni plays the role of a real man, worrying about the everyday problems like work and bringing up his son. There is a clear change of style and tone between the first and the second part of the film. There is a contrast between the easy life before the second world war and the bleakness of the conflict, between the surreal fight for his woman and the real one for living, between the classical, amusing, strange, and comic Benigni and the adult, tender, loving, brave, new man. The second part will be certainly more appreciated by everyone because of its emotional charge. We find a man aware of being a father and a husband, but incapable of explaining, both to himself and to the young Josuè, the horror of the concentration camps, of buttons made of human bones, of baths trasformed in gas chambers, of the sudden disappearance of all children and old people, of the separation from women and mothers, of dirtiness and guns. His unique, witty solution is to transform reality into a game. Everyone plays and fights to win the first prize: a wonderful, real tank. Both the son and the father try their best to win without really thinking about the reasons for the terrible atrocities. His son’s life will be more beautiful because his father has helped him to keep his innoncence, to live till the end his fairy tale, to be a child and believe in truth and people.
Actually Benigni did a very good job, making a good movie, telling, through laughter and tears, the positive idea of facing up to the injustices of life with a brave spirit. The work is to be appreciated not only because it is something new, but because it is rich in content, truth and dreams which save Benigni from some of his usual pitfalls.
His wife, Nicoletta Braschi, is also to be praised; for a long time now she has been by his side in his cinematic successes. The young actor who plays Josuè is also worth a mention. Despite his age he was able to face the set as well as the camera. Who knows if he understood that it was not a game?