04 October 2004

Life is beautiful, really.

I watched Life is Beautiful on Saturday. I was alone at home, and when the movie ended, it gave me such a jolt. This was one movie which had me grounded. I had no readymade reactions. First, I had to reconcile myself to the fact that Guido (Roberto Benigni) is dead, after all. Secondly, it is a movie that's set in Fascist Italy. And about half the movie is about life of the three leading characters in a concentration camp. You cant see a speck of blood though in the entire movie. Yet, the movie is so beautiful, simple, and shocking.

I am copy pasting the summary of the movie, for those who have not been as lucky as me:

"At the center of the fable is Guido (Roberto Benigni) — an enchanting individual with childlike innocence and grand dreams of owning his own bookshop. It’s 1939 and he has come to the Tuscan town of Arezzo with his poet friend Ferruccio (Sergio Bustric). With unabashed humor and joy, the two seek fortune and romance, ignoring the growing anti-Semitism and Fascist government that surrounds them.
Guido falls in love with Dora, a beautiful young school teacher (Nicoletta Braschi, the Italian actress who has starred in most of Benigni’s films). Unfortunately, the woman he calls his “Princess” is already engaged. Worse, she is engaged to the local Fascist official with whom he has had a run-in. Guido, however, is not deterred and a fairy tale romance ensues.
Several years later — Guido and Dora are married and have a son, Giosue (Giorgio Cantarini), and Guido has finally opened the bookshop of his dreams. But now, the occasional bigotries Guido once ignored have become Racial Laws with which he must come to terms. Throughout it all, Guido determines to shield his son from the brutal reality governing their lives. This determination becomes a matter of life and death when Guido and his son are sent to a concentration came three months before the war’s end. Of her own accord, and out of her love for them, Dora deports herself on the same train.
Now, in this unimaginable world, Guido must use his bold imagination and every ounce of his indefatigable spirit to save those he loves."

There are no profound cinematic statements: like oh-so-perfect freezes, or clich├ęs. The language is simple, lucid, and brief. Sure, there is loads of humour. So where is the pain of the Holocaust? It is in your mind. I mean to say, Benigni has chosen to not talk of pain. But he isn’t really turning away. Else, he wouldn’t have chosen the theme. The narrative of the movie is as simple as the protagonist. Throughout the movie, the audience is always conscious of the historic situation: like when Guido pulls down the shutter of his shop, you can clearly see the graffiti on the shutter that says: Jew shop.
I have seen The Pianist. Good movie, no doubt. But LIB is more about how things happen 'just like that' in life. Guido went marching to his death. His son saw him go and giggled. He never realized his dad would be dead. We don’t see Guido dead. But that's how it is. Larger-than-life events happen with no warning, no alarms, no sound effects. You are born. And you are dead. Just like that. Guido chose to laugh all the way to his death. You can take it as you will, but you cant deny that life is indeed beautiful.
I'll have to see this movie again. It's kind of decoded my response system.


Praveen Bhat said...

The movie title is so befitting to the plain satirical (not in dialogues, per se). I particularly remember the scene wherein there's some discussion going on with math questions for school students and how badly the perspectives differ. I'd expected the ending as is, so this scene was quite touching too.

Vijayalaxmi said...

Hi Prakash
Didnt quite understand which scene you are talking about.

Praveen Bhat said...

I think thats quite fair... try some other time. Maybe, when you watch the movie next. Sorry, I say this because I'm not Prakash, I'm Praveen :)

Vijayalaxmi said...


Grin!! But I still cant remember the scene you mentioned.

Praveen Bhat said...


I thought you were upset at that comment of mine. Well, I usually crack up like that :)

The scene's when all are seated at the dinner table (just before Guido comes in on the green horse)... its something about a math problem given to kids and its about killing people. Okay, I don't remember exact details.

Another scene hard-hitting was one where the Dr. expects help on a riddle when Guido comes in to ask help!