As I work my way through IMDB’s top 250 movies, I came across this one. The name and picture on the cover of a family smiling and having fun kind of threw me off. I didn’t want some cheesy little romance. But then I read the description of it, about how a man makes up a little game to spare his young son from realizing the horrors of being in a Nazi internment camp. Oh my God. And what makes this movie even more insane is that it’s part drama and part slapstick comedy. You read that right: a slapstick comedy about the holocaust. Now who the hell could pull that off?!
Apparently Roberto Benigni can.
Start the camera. Main character Guido Orefice makes the best out of life and performs many stunts to get the attention of young Dora, the woman he is in love with. Hilarity ensues as he takes her away from her arrogant fiancé and mother. However humorous their antics, there are little sprits of anti-Semitism sprinkled throughout, but it’s nothing Guido can’t have a little fun with.
Then Dora and Guido get married and have a little boy. We feel happy for them. More anti-Semitism. More of Guido’s humor. When stores have signs outside saying “No Jews allowed” he jokes that he saw a sign one that said “No Chinese and no elephants” and decided he would put one up on his own bookshop saying “No spiders.” Laughs ensue. Then he and his son and his uncle are taken to the camps. You would think the humor ends there, and indeed it does become a more serious movie, but still keeps humor throughout. Even in extreme circumstances, Guido makes us laugh and makes his son feel safe, and for that we thank him, for it is people like him that truly do make life beautiful.