01 January 2011

Buon giorno, Principessa!

La Vita e Bella (Life is Beautiful), 1997

I first watched this movie in my 10th grade film class. We were doing a unit on foreign films, and someone recommended we watch this one as our example. Before I had watched this movie, I had never seen a foreign film. 

I think I had the same attitude that a lot of Americans have. Kind of an "I don't want to read a movie, I want to watch it." And so I had never had any kind of interest in foreign films, and I can't remember, but I must have come to class that day with a hint of reservation about seeing this Italian film.

But from the word go, all reservations went out the window. I was surprised by how natural it was for me to read the subtitles and still  be able to pay attention to the action of the film. I didn't miss a beat, and I was so drawn into the story. I laughed so hard, and cried even harder.

Life is Beautiful is a truly genius piece of cinema. Not since Charlie Chaplin made fun of the Nazi party in the Great Dictator had somebody dared to ridicule Hitler. And not since Sophie's Choice was revealed was a concentration camp so heartbreaking. Roberto Benigni did just that in Life is Beautiful. His character turns the experience of a concentration camp into a game to devastating results.

But for all its heartbreak, and there is plenty, you walk away from the movie feeling glad to be alive and agreeing that, in spite of everything, life truly is beautiful.

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