That’s ‘Life’

Being the child of Holocaust survivors, I am perhaps too sensitive in viewing films that depict wartime atrocities. I am glad they are being made to enlighten the public, yet sometimes they carry a message that can be misinterpreted.

I am quite shocked at the effusive and fawning reviews “Life Is Beautiful” has received. I understand that this film is being called a “fable,” yet one cannot compare it to Aesop or any such fictional story, because the film is steeped in recent history and has human characters who resemble real people in real times and places.

The first half portrays actor-director Roberto Benigni in his typical over-the-top comedy. When the audience is almost settled in for more laughs, the film changes to a serious direction with the beginning of the war, yet Benigni’s character seems almost unfazed by the astronomical life changes that assault him. He continues his comedic antics into the labor camps and wants us to believe that with his childlike effervescence, he can almost cajole his way to the end of the war.

This film is an example of Holocaust Lite: just enough shock and sadness to make us think, but covered with a candy-coated shell to manipulate and move us back into levity, where it’s much more comfortable for everyone. Because, in the end, the viewing public has to leave the theater thinking life is beautiful, after all.


Los Angeles


The print ads include Benigni’s name 10 or more times, yet the female lead, Nicoletta Braschi (Mrs. Benigni in real life), is mentioned just once, and Giorgio Cantarini, the film’s little boy, is mentioned not at all.


It does seem as if Benigni is so smitten by his success he is forgetting what it was to be a struggling actor and how much it means to those in the cast to be recognized for their performances.