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Film: Life Is Beautiful
"You are such a good boy. You sleep now. Dream sweet dreams. Maybe we are both dreaming. Maybe this is all a dream, and in the morning, Mommy will wake us up with milk and cookies. Then, after we eat, I will make love to her two or three times. If I can."

A 1997 Italian comedy about the Holocaust. Starring Roberto Benigni (who also wrote and directed it), the film won three Academy Awards: Best Original Dramatic Score, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Actor. Benigni went down in infamy for the middle one, being so excited by his win that he climbed over the seats of the Academy members in front of him to claim his award.

The first half of the film contains elements of the Romantic Comedy, featuring a young Italian Jew named Guido Orefice planning to set up his own bookstore, working as a waiter, and trying his best to romance Dora (Nicoletta Braschi), a young Christian schoolteacher who comes from a much richer family, while living with his uncle. Several years pass, and the two have a son, but become estranged from the rich relatives: however, they begin to reconcile.

However, the second half of the film takes a turn for the dark: Guido, his uncle Eliseo and his son Giosuč are taken to a concentration camp. His wife chooses to be deported with her family but is separated at a different part of the camp. Giosuč is hidden from the Nazis and Guido tries his very best to keep the actual darkness of the camp from his son.


This film provides examples of:

  • Bittersweet Ending: Guido's son ends up getting the tank but Guido (himself) dies, but his wife survives and he shielded his child from the horrors of the Holocaust until he was old enough to understand.
  • Brick Joke: the tank
  • Children Are Innocent: Invoked by Guido; he tries to pass the Holocaust off as a game to avoid traumatizing his son. This is the "translation" of the camp's rules he gives his son:
    "The game starts now. You have to score one thousand points. If you do that, you take home a tank with a big gun. Each day we will announce the scores from that loudspeaker. The one who has the fewest points will have to wear a sign that says 'Jackass' on his back. There are three ways to lose points. One, turning into a big crybaby. Two, telling us you want to see your mommy. Three, saying you're hungry and want something to eat. "
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Guido, full stop.
  • Coincidental Accidental Disguise: Guido's car brakes go out and through a series of remarkable accidents they are somehow mistaken for fascist officers parading through a nearby town.
  • Cool Guns: See here.
  • Consummate Liar
  • Could Say It But
  • Dying Moment of Awesome
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Guido to Dora in the first part of the film.
  • Fascist Italy
  • First Law of Tragicomedies: Surprisingly averted or at least played with. While the second half of this film is darker than the first and much more serious it never truly loses the spirit of the humor involved - its handling of this is probably why it won many awards. Rare is the movie that can continue to make you laugh and keep up the seriousness of the holocaust.
  • Gallows Humor
  • Halfway Plot Switch
  • The Hero Dies
  • Hide And No Seek: Done to save Giosuč's life as the panicking Germans are executing every concentration camp prisoner they can get their hands on.
  • Hot Teacher: Dora
  • Hope Spot: In the prison camp, Guido meets Doctor Lessing again, who looks visibly shaken seeing his friend there and asks to meet him later. Guido tries to find an opportunity to tell him about his wife and son in the hopes of somehow getting one or both out, but when they manage to talk properly, he finds out that the only reason Doctor Lessing tried to talk to him again was to consult in another riddle.
  • I'll Never Tell You What I'm Telling You
    Guido: You can't imagine how much I feel like making love to you. But I'll never tell anyone, especially not you. They'd have to torture me to make me say it.
    Dora: Say what?
    Guido: That I want to make love to you - not just once, but over and over again! But I'll never tell you that. I'd have to be crazy to tell you.
  • Inferred Holocaust: The movie conviently ends before the boy inevitably finds out that his father is dead. It is probably for this reason that voice-overs of the boy as an adult were later added to the movie.
  • Mood Whiplash
  • Narrator: An adult Giosuč, briefly, at the beginning and the end.
  • Nazis with Gnarly Weapons
  • Not My Driver: One of the stunts Guido performs to attempt to win Dora's love.
  • Oh Crap: Many German Nazi officers and their children are visiting the concentration camp, so Guido, who is working as a waiter for the dinner, smuggles Giosuč in with the kids so he can have a real meal. But then Giosuč lets slip a "Grazie": an Italian word that none of the German kids would say. This is the first time in the entire movie that Guido has shown actual terror.
  • Oscar Bait: Well, despite it probably wasn't conceived as such, the movie's heavy and touchy themes made its awards much, much more predictable.
  • Parenting the Husband: Albeit for a very short while.
  • Refuge in Audacity:
    • In a real life example, Roberto Benigni made a nominal comedy about the Holocaust, the supreme film artistic challenge that got him hailed as a master filmmaker for doing something even Charlie Chaplin would never have dared.
    • This is pretty much the reason Guido gets away with half the stuff he pulls, ranging from his repeated run ins with Dora to announcing over the intercom system of a concentration camp.
  • Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: Dora has very rich but obnoxious fiance at the beginning of the movie, whom later breaks up with to be with Guido.
  • Silly Walk: Guido mimics the goose stepping march of the guards to amuse his son. It's the last thing he ever does.
  • Something Only They Would Say: "Buongiorno Principessa!" was the pickup line Guido used several times to be noticed by Dora during the first half, and used when he hijacks the concentration camp's speaker system to let her know that he and Giosuč were still alive in the second.
  • Spiritual Successor: Often treated as this way in comparison to The Day the Clown Cried.
  • Tank Goodness: The tank the finally arrives at the camp as part of the liberation force is an American M4 Sherman.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: As well as the real deal.
  • A World Half Full
  • World War II
  • Yanks with Tanks: Literally.


L'AvventuraItalian FilmsMalena
The Boy In The Striped PajamasWorks Set in World War IIJakob The Liar
Liar LiarFilms of the 1990sA Life Less Ordinary
ElizabethAcademy AwardSaving Private Ryan
Burnt by the SunAcademy Award For Best Foreign Language FilmCrouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

alternative title(s): Life Is Beautiful
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