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Life is Beautiful

"Life is Beautiful" on DVD

Camp Humor?

"Life is Beautiful" is a powerful story of one man's strength, irrepressible good nature, and love for his family despite unbearable odds.

The much-honored 1999 release from Italian writer/director/actor Roberto Benigni sees his character of Guido, a "charming but bumbling waiter," winning the heart of his dream woman, starting a family with her, and then seeing it all stripped away from him in an instant as he and his son are forced into a WWII Nazi concentration camp.

Benigni's "Guido" is a lovable buffoon on the surface, but over the course of the film we see him revealed as a great human being who, rather than force the horrible reality of the concentration camp onto his son, convinces him it's really a vacation and that they're playing a game and hoping to win a fabulous prize. Never does he lose his jaunty step, his world-warming smile, his exuberant love of life, and this helps both his son and his wife (who voluntarily followed them to the camp) survive their ordeal.

It took a lot of courage - and a lot of skill - to find humor in a Nazi concentration camp, but Benigni has done it. You can't help but shake your head in joyful wonder at Guido's joie de vivre, funny ways, and inner strength, and you're rooting for him all the way. He doesn't poke fun at the holocaust, and there isn't a lot of fun in the concentration camp scenes; in fact, when the movie switches from its charming and lighthearted portrayal of Guido's postcard "peacetime" existence to the depressing inhumanity of the camp, the mood (except for Guido's) becomes decidedly dour.

Instead, the movie is about courage, love, and hope and it sends a powerful, positive message.

The contrast between the dehumanized camp and its inmates and Benigni's "refuse to be dehumanized" Guido really works, and "Life is Beautiful" succeeds as a wonderful testimony to the power and decency that can be found in the human race.

The widescreen DVD is in Dolby 5.1 surround and both the audio and video quality are excellent. You can watch the film in its original Italian, with or without subtitles, or in well-dubbed English. There's also a half hour documentary on the film, the trailer and some TV commercials.

"Life is Beautiful" won three Academy Awards (it was nominated for seven) as well as a host of other international awards. It's a set of honors the film undoubtedly deserves.

Life is Beautiful, from Miramax Home Video
116 minutes, Widescreen (1.85:1), Dolby Digital
Starring Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, Giorgio Cantarini
Produced by Elda Ferri and Gianluigi Braschi, Screenplay by Vincenzo Cerami and Robert Benigni
Directed by Roberto Benigni


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Updated May 13, 2006