Life Is Beautiful ★★★★½

It may be a direct result of these troubled times but I am finding myself more and more drawn to films like It’s a Wonderful Life, Singing in the Rain, Cinema Paradiso, Casablanca and of course Life is Beautiful. A film that I watched 10 years or so ago, when I was younger and perhaps a bit too cynical for my own good. I didn’t like Life is Beautiful. It turns out the fault was all my own. This is a wonderful film, split into two parts. The first is a sweet and very funny romantic comedy set up concerning Benigni’s character chasing the object of his desires. Benigni channels his inner Chaplin, in fact the entire segment put me in mind of City Lights. The comedy, however, is juxtaposed against a World War II backdrop and the second part of the film is in stark contrast as the family is hauled off to a concentration camp. Benigni’s character tries to make good to his son in the most terrible of circumstances making a game out of life in the camp designed to shelter his son from the reality of their situation. It remains funny, however there is a heartbreaking and tragic tone to the entire final hour of this film. Life is Beautiful is about sacrifice and through Benigni’s character, it is about how our own personal outlook can shape our circumstances. At least that is how I read it and it is particularly pertinent in 2017. Ultimately it is film full of heart and while it is, in a sense, escapism, it shows the dark underbelly of war and oppression. We see this through the eyes of Benigni’s character, eyes which seem hell bent on only seeing the beauty that life has to offer.