Why Life Is Beautiful is the best film of all time.
By Manolo Calderon
Life Is Beautiful, starring and directed by Italy’s Robin Williams, Roberto Benigni, is a classic. The film takes place in Fascist Italy in the 1930’s, and during World War II, as the Holocaust reaches Italy. Benigni is a hapless young Jew who falls in love with a beautiful gentile. He steals her away from her strong-arm boyfriend and they marry, despite the encroaching danger.
The film splits into two separate parts: Before and during the Holocaust. Before their child is born, and after. It connects a comic love story with a tragic story of survival. It is, in its way, a representation of Taoism’s Yin and Yang, the opposing life forces which hold the universe in balance.
In the beginning of the film, a love story was unfolds, filled with coincidental encounters, grandiose gestures, and the kind of physical and verbal comedy that allows Benigni to show his best. The whole first half of the film has a bright warm palette, to go with the innocent and loving atmosphere. However, the Nazis have begun to creep in abetted by their Axis partner, Mussolini. This is the black dot of Yin within the white expanse of Yang. Soon enough, the balance shifts.
The second half of the film takes us to the dark side. The lovers are separated and the family is sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. The film now centers on what the father does to survive and to hide and protect his son from cruelty, starvation and disease. He convinces the child that it is all a game and that there will be a prize at the end of this “grand event”. This child’s unspoiled charisma is the little white dot in the center of Yin.
This mixture of light and dark is, of course, representative of life. You laugh with this film, you cry with this film. You don’t chase a girl around Rome and make her fall in love with you. You don’t have to live through the Holocaust. You just have to love life to understand. The title comes true – despite oppression, war, horror – life IS beautiful.