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Life is beautiful

September 15, 2015

LIBThe movie story is simple and warm, horrific and yet humorous. Using the language of both slapstick and romance, Roberto Benigni, the co-writer, director, and lead actor, tells the story of a young peasant who comes to the city to work. It is 1939 and anti-Semitism is growing. But Guido, a Jew, is oblivious to his danger. He is in love, and life is beautiful. In one of the funniest courtships portrayed on film, Guido wins Dora (played by Benigni’s real-life wife), a school- teacher with social standing. The couple’s love is genuine and contagious, and their son, Joshua, lives in the wonderful embrace of their love.

Then both Joshua and Guido are arrested and shipped to a concentration camp. The thought of Joshua suffering in fear is more than Guido can bear. The second half of the movie shows the extreme measures that Guido takes to protect his child. (There is an equally moving story of how Dora, who is not a Jew, volunteers to go to the camp in order to be with her family) Guido plays an elaborate game to protect his son from the horrors of the prison. The extent of Guido’s love for his boy brought tears to my eyes, as did the commitment Dora and Guido have to each other. In a scene reminiscent of The Shawshank Redemption, Guido risks his life to play music for Dora over the camp’s loudspeaker. It was magnificent to watch and to hear. In fact, my wife and I went out and bought the CD so the memory could linger. Guido will do anything for Dora and Joshua, and the compelling power of his affection is reciprocated.
”For me, it was the Academy Award winning film Life Is Beautiful (1998) that provided such an experience of human transcendence. As a father with one daughter in college and one about to launch her adult career, I was moved deeply by the portrayal of a father’s love for his child. Here was a sacrificial and yet joyous love that was boundless. Here is howl should have been more often with my daughters. Here is what it is to be a Father. Life is beautiful within the loving embrace of a family; it is worth any sacrifice to love those near to us.

“The sacrificial and trusting love between a boy and his father was compelling. Ultimately, in this film the father’s love became paradigmatic of what a parent’s love should be it was even analogous to the Father’s love (1 John 3:1: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. To hold your child in your arms (or to be held in your parent’s arms) is transformative. In the words of Joshua as the movie ends, “We won.” ” Reel Spirituality: Theology and Film in Dialogue – R. Johnston p. 161 https://layreadersbookreviews.wordpress.com/2015/09/11/reel-spirituality-theology-and-film-in-dialogue-r-johnston/

 

Guido: What kind of place is this? It’s beautiful: Pigeons fly, women fall from the sky! I’m moving here!

Giosué Orefice: “No Jews or Dogs Allowed.” Why do all the shops say, “No Jews Allowed”?
Guido: Oh, that. “Not Allowed” signs are the latest trend! The other day, I was in a shop with my friend the kangaroo, but their sign said, “No Kangaroos Allowed,” and I said to my friend, “Well, what can I do? They don’t allow kangaroos.”
Giosué Orefice: Why doesn’t our shop have a “Not Allowed” sign?
Guido: Well, tomorrow, we’ll put one up. We won’t let in anything we don’t like. What don’t you like?
Giosué Orefice: Spiders.
Guido: Good. I don’t like Visigoths. Tomorrow, we’ll get sign: “No Spiders or Visigoths Allowed.”

Guido: [being shipped to a concentration camp] You’ve never ridden on a train, have you? They’re fantastic! Everybody stands up, close together, and there are no seats!
Giosué Orefice: There aren’t any seats?
Guido: Seats? On a train? It’s obvious you’ve never ridden one before! No, everybody’s packed in, standing up. Look at this line to get on! Hey, we’ve got tickets, save room for us!

Guido: How ridiculous. They were just teasing you! There are wood ovens, but there are no people ovens. Putting people in ovens creates too much smoke.

 

Giosuè as an adult in re-edited version: This is the sacrifice my father made for me.

[first lines] Giosué Orefice: [narrating as an adult] This is a simple story… but not an easy one to tell.

Giosué Orefice: When can I see Mama?
Guido: When the game’s over.

Giosué Orefice: We won!
Dora: Yes, we won! Its true.
Giosué Orefice: We got a thousand points and we won the game! Daddy and me came in first and now we won the real tank! We won! We won!

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