Life is Beautiful

'Life is Beautiful'

Life Is Beautiful, co-written and directed by Roberto Benigni, is now the highest-grossing foreign film in U.S. history. Favorable reviews and word-of-mouth have sent audiences to it in droves. It has not only been nominated as the best foreign-language movie but is a contender for best picture in competition with the highly touted Hollywood products Saving Private Ryan and Shakespeare in Love. Playing the lead role, Benigni has won a best-actor nomination. By the time you read this, Life Is Beautiful will surely have triumphed in the foreign-language category. A singular achievement for, of all things, an Italian comedy that deals with the Holocaust.
But does it deal with the Holocaust? To be precise, is there a valid depiction of the Holocaust in this film?

Stalin killed, Pol Pot killed, the bloody opportunists of what used to be Yugoslavia killed, and many of their victims suffered as much as the Jews caught in Hitler’s web. Yet the Final Solution seems to make evil reverberate in a way that no other atrocity does. Many valid reasons have been adduced-the technological expertise in slaughter, the attempted extinction of a people whose ethics laid the moral basis for Western civilization, the nurturing of evil within a culture that gave nineteenth-century Europe Goethe, Beethoven, and Kant. I wish to single out another reason, both for its own sake and because it is germane to the plot of Benigni’s film...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.

About the Author

Richard Alleva has been reviewing movies for Commonweal since 1990.