La Vita è bella

Italy

Synopsis

LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL is a Chaplinesque fable about the power of imagination set against the stark reality of World War II Europe. LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL combines satire, physical comedy, social commentary and a touch of the surreal into a uniquely moving story of love.

At the center of the fable is Guido - an enchanting individual with childlike innocence and grand dreams of owning his own bookshop. It's 1939 and he has come to the Tuscan town of Arezzo with his poet friend Ferruccio. With unabashed humor and joy, the two seek fortune and romance, ignoring the growing anti-Semitism and Fascist government that surround them.

Guido falls in love with Dora, a beautiful young school teacher. Unfortunately, the woman he calls his "Princess" is already engaged. Worse, she is engaged to the local Fascist official with whom he has had a run-in. Guido, however, is not deterred and a fairy tale romance ensues.

Several years later - Guido and Dora are married and have a son, Giosué, and Guido has finally opened the bookshop of his dreams. But now, the occasional bigotries Guido once ignored have become Racial Laws with which he must come to terms. Throughout it all, Guido determines to shield his son from the brutal reality governing their lives. This determination becomes a matter of life and death when Guido and his son are sent to a concentration camp three months before the war's end. Of her own accord, and out of her love for them, Dora deports herself an the same train.

Now, in this unimaginable world, Guido must use his bold imagination and every ounce of his indefatigable spirit to save those he loves.

Director's Biography

One of the most acclaimed comic filmmakers and entertainers, Roberto Benigni has rendered his most ambitious and moving work to date with LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL, a fable about the powers of love and imagination set against World War II Europe.

In the U.S., Benigni is best known for his many memorable comic performances in such films as Jim Jarmusch's DOWN BY LAW and NIGHT ON EARTH, as well as for the role of the infamous Inspector Clouseau's son in Blake Edward's SON OF THE PINK PANTHER. He has also recently appeared in Wim Wender's FAR AWAY, SO CLOSE!

But around the world, Benigni is also known as a filmmaker with his own unique style. Among the films he has written, directed and starred in are: JOHNNY STECCHINO, the story of a mild-mannered bus driver who just happens to be the spitting image of one of Italy's most wanted mobsters, which became the most successful film in the history of Italian cinema; THE LITTLE DEVIL, in which he co-stars with Walter Matthau; and most recently THE MONSTER, another blockbuster Italian comedy about an ordinary man mistaken for a serial killer.

Benigni began his career in Rome's theatres and quickly become one of Italy's leading comic talents. He attained great popularity as a television star and appeared in many acclaimed feature films, including IL PAP'OCCHIO and IL MINESTRONE. In 1983, he directed his first feature film, TU MI TURBI and went an to direct his next film, NON CI RESTA CHE PIANGERE with co-star Massimo Troisi. In 1985, he made TUTTOBENIGNI, a feature film of his live theatrical performances which established his comic sensibilities world-wide. His other film credits include Federico Fellini's last film LA DOLCE VITA DELLA LUNA.

Benigni continues to work an stage. He appeared as the reciting voice in a memorable performance of PETER AND THE WOLF at the Ferrara Music Festival. He also recently toured Italy with his one-man comical show.
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Cast & Crew

Directed by: Roberto Benigni

Written by: Vincenzo Cerami, Roberto Benigni

Produced by: Elda Ferri, Gianluigi Braschi

Cinematography: Tonino Delli Colli

Editing: Simona Paggi

Production Design: Danilo Donati

Costume Design: Danilo Donati

Original Score: Nicola Piovani

Main Cast: Roberto Benigni (Guido), Nicoletta Braschi (Dora), Giorgio Cantarini (Giosué), Giustino Durano (uncle), Sergio Bini Bustric (Ferruccio), Marisa Paredes (Dora's mother), Horst Buchholz (Dr. Lessing)

Nominations and Awards

  • European Film 1998
  • European Actor 1998
  • EFA Feature Film Selection 1998