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In Life is Beautiful Benigni plays Guido Orefice, a Jewish bookkeeper who moves during the ’30s from the Tuscan country to Arezzo where he meets a schoolteacher, Dora (Nicoletta Braschi, Benigni’s real-life wife). He starts a fairy tale life by courting and marrying the girl. Then, Guido and his wife have a son and live happily together until the occupation of Italy by German forces.
Despite the times, Guido Orefice is a happy man in love with life and with Dora. Since he met her at the very beginning, it is love at first sight. Every time Guido crosses and meets the girl, he says, “Good Morning, Princess!” (Italian: “Buongiorno, Principessa!”) just to let her know how much he loves her.
In an attempt to hold his family together and help his son survive the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp, Guido imagines that the Holocaust is a game and that the grand prize for winning is a tank. He tells the boy that they are competing with others so everything from food shortages to tattoos is explained as necessary for participation in the contest.
This movie is a life lesson: Despite anti-Semitic attitudes and laws, Benigni wanted to show that life is really beautiful as you watch Guido’s relentless efforts to make an exciting experience of the concentration to his son. You get exhausted watching him going through his painful day and yet you smile as he speaks to his son and makes him laugh.
Life is Beautiful has less to do with the Holocaust and more with human feelings and a beautiful relationship of a father and his son. The holocaust provides the ultimate context that brings and highlights the story and adds yet another deep dimension to the movie. In this film, the spectator combines laughter and tears of sadness.
Roberto Benigni was inspired by the book of Rubino Romeo Salomoni, an Italian Jew who survived the concentration camps and returned home after the war. His two brothers were less fortunate, both died in the camps. He recounted his horrific experiences in the book “In the End, I Beat Hitler”, employing flashes of irony and dark humor to describe conditions in Auschwitz, where he was sent.
The original score to Life is Beautiful was composed by Nicola Piovani, a pianist, composer and director-of-orchestra born in Rome. The emotive soundtrack album won the Academy Award for Best Original Dramatic Score and was also nominated for a Grammy Award Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media.
Roberto Benigni is one of the most loved Italian actors in the world. Benigni is not only an actor but also an improvisational poet, appreciated worldwide for his recitations of Dante’s Divina Commedia by memory.
It’s not easy to forget the scene when Sophia Loren pronounced “Roberto!”, the name of Roberto Benigni who won the Academy Award for Life is Beautiful. After a moment of true happiness he did one of the longest and most touching speeches in the Academy’s history.