Life Is Beautiful

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Life Is Beautiful (Italian: La vita è bella) is a 1997 Italian language film which tells the story of a Jewish Italian, Guido Orefice (played by Roberto Benigni, who also directed and co-wrote the film), who must employ his fertile imagination to help his family during their internment in a Nazi concentration camp.

At the 71st Academy Awards in 1998, Benigni won the Academy Award for Best Actor and the film won both the Academy Award for Best Original Dramatic Score and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Contents

Plot

The first half of the movie is a whimsical, romantic, slapstick comedy set in the years before World War II. Guido Orefice (Roberto Benigni), a young Italian Jew, arrives in Arezzo where he plans to set up a bookstore, taking a job in the interim as a waiter at his uncle's hotel.

Guido is both funny and charismatic, especially when he romances a local school teacher, Dora (portrayed by Benigni's actual wife Nicoletta Braschi). Dora, however comes from a wealthy, aristocratic, non-Jewish Italian family. Dora's mother wants her to marry a well-to-do civil servant, but Dora falls instead for Guido where he ends up stealing her away at her engagement party from her aristocratic but arrogant fiancé.

Several years pass in which Guido and Dora marry and have a son, Joshua (Giorgio Cantarini).

Dora and her mother (Marisa Paredes) are estranged due to the unequal marriage. Later on, a reconciliation takes place just prior to Joshua's fourth birthday.

In the second half of the film, The Second World War has already begun. Guido, Uncle Eliseo, and Joshua are forced onto a train and taken to a concentration camp on Joshua's birthday. Dora demands to be on the same train to join her family and is permitted to do so.

In the camp, Guido hides his son from the Nazi guards, sneaks him food, and tries to humor him. In an attempt to keep up Joshua's spirits, Guido convinces him that the camp is just a game, in which the first person to get 1,000 points wins 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 1,000 points.

Guido convinces Joshua that the camp guards are mean because they want the tank for themselves and that all the other children are hiding in order to 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. Despite being surrounded by rampant misery, sickness, and death, 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 caused by the American advance—he tells his son to stay in a sweatbox until everybody has left, this being the final test before the tank is his. After trying to find Dora, Guido is caught, taken away and shot dead by a Nazi guard, but not before making his son laugh one last time by imitating the Nazi guard as if the two of them are marching around the camp together.

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