Ben Oliver

Banner image for Life is Beautiful

Life is Beautiful

Buon giorno, Principessa!
25 September 2023

An Jewish Italian father (Roberto Benigni) and his family are taken to a concentration camp in WWII. He tries to protect his son from the horrors of the place by framing it as a game.

This was a huge hit at the time, winning all sorts of Oscars, awards and even becoming required viewing for school kids, which is where I first saw the film. I realised I hadn’t seen or even heard of it since then, so figured it was worth a re-watch.

Looking around online, it’s not surprising to find a more mixed opinion of the film these days, and I can relate to this. What was a powerful and audacious film back then now seems a little poor taste.

It’s a film of two halves, the first shows a slapstick happy-go-lucky father and husband trying to get married and having a child. The second shows him trying to apply that same spirit to insulate his child from the realities of the work camp. The contrast between the two still works and stands as a powerful testament to the human spirit.

However, it’s dusted with a sickly sweet sentimentality, particularly by the end, that feels inappropriate and even perhaps grating.

A sound two-fingers to an oppressive regime, but I’m not sure I see the ‘masterpiece’ that people saw back in 1997.