‘Tragicomedy’ is probably my favourite oxymoron. It is not everyday that you come across a movie that makes you laugh and cry at the same time; and when I do come across one, it immediately goes down on my list of favourite movies of all time. Recently in our ‘Audio-Video Production’ class our teacher showed us the movie, ‘Life is Beautiful’, and while I feel I am too young to remark on life, I must say the movie is beautiful! Here is my review of the movie:
‘Life is Beautiful’ is a poignant tale of one man’s zest for life and his love for his family, set against the stark reality of the Second World War in Europe. Directed by Robert Bengini, the film opens in the year of 1939 when Anti-Semitic and Fascist tensions were high in parts of Europe, especially Italy and Germany; and follows the journey of the Jewish protagonist Guido, as he moves to a new city, hoping to fulfil his dreams of owning a bookshop. He literally falls in love with Dora, a young school teacher, and in a whirlwind fairy tale like romance convinces her to elope with him. His unabashed humour and childlike innocence endears him both to the hearts of the audience and the characters on-screen. Dora is literally swept off her feet. She breaks off her engagement to a rich but arrogant man, and goes against her mother’s wishes to marry Guido.
The second part of the movie fast-forwards into a future, where the two are happily married. They have a son named Joshua whom they both adore, and Guido has fulfilled his dream of owning a bookstore. Their blissful existence is however destroyed when Joshua and Guido are arrested and sent off to a concentration camp. What follows is a moving tale of a father’s love for his son, a race against time for survival, and a quest to find moments of cheerfulness in a place surrounded by misery, death and hardships.
Guido tries to shield the ugly truth of the war from his son, by telling Joshua that is all an elaborate game. The plot is a fresh take on the power of love, family and imagination that conquer all hardships. Unlike other World War II films, this movie sidesteps politics and international affairs, focusing instead on humanity and innocence, two qualities hard to come by during a period of war, and therein lies its poignancy. The caricaturized acting of Robert Bengini, as the quirky protagonist and humorous dialogue delivery makes sure that you smile even through your tears. The central theme of the film is simple — Life is Beautiful and one must never lose one’s zest for it, regardless of where it is lived. Do go watch it!