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La vita è bella

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Title: La vita è bella  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Italy, Toronto International Film Festival, 4th Critics' Choice Awards, Florida Film Critics Circle Awards 1998, Box (torture), List of Holocaust films, Nastro d'Argento for Best Director
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La vita è bella

Life Is Beautiful
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Roberto Benigni
Produced by Gianluigi Braschi
Elda Ferri
Written by Roberto Benigni
Vincenzo Cerami
Starring Roberto Benigni
Nicoletta Braschi
Giorgio Cantarini
Giustino Durano
Horst Buchholz
Music by Nicola Piovani
Cinematography Tonino Delli Colli
Editing by Simona Paggi
Studio Cecchi Gori Group
Distributed by Miramax Films
Release date(s)Template:Plainlist
Running time 116 minutes[1]
Country Italy
Language Italian
Budget $20 million[2]
Box office $229,163,264[3]

Life Is Beautiful (Italian: La vita è bella) is a 1997 Italian comedy-drama film directed by and starring Roberto Benigni. Benigni plays Guido Orefice, a Jewish Italian book shop owner, who must employ his fertile imagination to shield his son from the horrors of internment in a Nazi concentration camp. Part of the film came from Benigni's own family history; before Roberto's birth, his father had survived three years of internment at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. The film was a critical and financial success, winning Benigni the Academy Award for Best Actor at the 71st Academy Awards as well as the Academy Award for Best Original Dramatic Score and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.


In 1939 Italy, Guido Orefice is a funny and charismatic young Jewish man looking for work in a city. He falls in love with a local school teacher, Dora, who is to be engaged to a rich but arrogant civil servant. Guido engineers further meetings with her, seizing on coincidental incidents to declare his affection for her, and finally wins her over. He steals her from her engagement party on a horse, humiliating her fiance and mother. Soon they are married and have a son, Joshua.

Through the first part, the film depicts the changing political climate in Italy: Guido frequently imitates members of the National Fascist Party, skewering their racist logic and pseudoscientific reasoning (at one point, jumping onto a table to demonstrate his "perfect Aryan bellybutton"). However, the growing Fascist wave is also evident: the horse Guido steals Dora away on has been painted green and covered in antisemitic insults.

Later during World War II, after Dora and her mother have reconciled, Guido, his Uncle Eliseo and Joshua are seized on Joshua's birthday, forced onto a train and taken to a concentration camp. Despite being a non-Jew, Dora demands to be on the same train to join her family. In the camp, Guido hides their true situation from his son, convincing him that the camp is a complicated game in which Joshua must perform the tasks Guido gives him, earning him points; the first team to reach one thousand points will win a tank. He tells him that if he cries, complains that he wants his mother, or says that he is hungry, he will lose points, while quiet boys who hide from the camp guards earn extra points.

Guido uses this game to explain features of the concentration camp that would otherwise be scary for a young child: the guards are mean only because they want the tank for themselves; the dwindling numbers of children (who are being killed by the camp guards) are only hiding in order to score more points than Joshua so they can win the game. He puts off Joshua's requests to end the game and return home by convincing him that they are in the lead for the tank, and need only wait a short while before they can return home with their tank. Despite being surrounded by the misery, sickness, and death at the camp, Joshua does not question this fiction because of his father's convincing performance and his own innocence.

Guido maintains this story right until the end when, in the chaos of shutting down the camp as the Americans approach, he tells his son to stay in a sweatbox until everybody has left, this being the final competition before the tank is his. Guido tries to find Dora, but is caught by a soldier. As he is marched off to be executed, he maintains the fiction of the game by deliberately marching in an exaggerated goose-step as he passes Joshua's hiding place.

The next morning, Joshua emerges from the sweatbox as the camp is occupied by an American armored division; he thinks he has won the game. The soldiers let him ride in the tank until, later that day, he sees Dora in the crowd of people streaming home from the camp. In the film, Joshua is a young boy; however, both the beginning and ending of the film are narrated by an older Joshua recalling his father's story of sacrifice for his family.



Life Is Beautiful was shown at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival, and went on to win the Grand Prix.[4] At the 71st Academy Awards, the film won awards for Best Music, Original Dramatic Score, and Best Foreign Language Film, with Benigni winning Best Actor for his role. The film also received Academy Award nominations for Directing, Film Editing, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Picture.[5]


Life Is Beautiful became commercially successful. After its release on 23 October 1998 in the United States, the film went on to gross $57,563,264 in North America, and $171,600,000 internationally, with a worldwide gross of $229,163,264.[3]

The film also received mostly positive reviews, with the film aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes giving the film a "Fresh" 80% rating.[6] Despite its acclaim, actor-director Roberto Benigni received criticism for its comedic elements incorporated into the backdrop of the Holocaust. Roger Ebert gave the film 3 1/2 stars, stating, "At Cannes, it offended some left-wing critics with its use of humor in connection with the Holocaust. What may be most offensive to both wings is its sidestepping of politics in favor of simple human ingenuity. The film finds the right notes to negotiate its delicate subject matter."[7]


The original score to the film was composed by Nicola Piovani, with the exception of a classical piece which figures prominently: the "Barcarolle" by Jacques Offenbach. The soundtrack album won the Academy Award for Best Original Dramatic Score and was nominated for a Grammy Award: "Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media", but lost to the score of A Bug's Life.

See also

Further reading


External links

  • Internet Movie Database
  • Box Office Mojo
  • Rotten Tomatoes
  • Metacritic
  • Arts & Faith Top 100 Spiritually Significant Films list
  • [1] rogerebbert review
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
The Sweet Hereafter
Grand Prix, Cannes
Succeeded by

Template:AcademyAwardBestForeignLanguageFilm 1981–2000

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