Sunday, January 30, 2005

Buongiorno Principessa! (Review: La vita e bella)

If you'd told me about a movie that put Marx Brothers-style slapstick in a concentration camp setting, I would've thought the movie maker was crazy and out to offend.

But somehow, Roberto Benigni did it, and did it in a way that made me cry as much as it made me laugh. Life is Beautiful is a fairy tale. Most of the things that happen in it could never happen. But it's not about the story so much as about Guido, the main character.

His own reality
Here's a man who refuses to take life as it's presented to him, but instead believes that it is the best of all possible worlds. The things he says are funny, but you also get the sense he really believes them.

His serious, studious friend Ferruccio tells him about the power of telling yourself something, and it happens. But I think Guido, in his fantasy world, knows more about that sort of thing than he realises.

An example ... he meets his future wife, Dora, when she falls on him out of a window. He sees her as "heaven-sent", and makes it his business to turn that into a reality!

Playing games to get through
Later, in the darker, scarier part of the movie, he draws on all his comic powers to make life bearable - and even beautiful - for his son. It certainly got me thinking.

Is denial a necessity sometimes? When we go through the darkest times of our lives, do we have to tell ourselves things really aren't as bad as they are? When we absolutely have to get through that experience, do we play games to get through?

Marie and I talked about how we use games to get through the boring or unpleasant parts of life - how Marie gets up at 5am for work, telling herself she's one of the chosen few who get to drive the streets before the traffic comes!

It's one thing to convince yourself of an untruth to help yourself get through; it's another thing to know the truth as it is, but to present the best possible truth for someone else's sake. In the circumstances portrayed, I think Guido showed amazing leadership.

Favourite quote
When Guido is training as a waiter, his wise, patient Uncle Eliseo advises him on bowing:

"Think of a sunflower: they bow to the sun, but if you see some that are too bowed down, it means they're dead.

You're serving. You're not a servant. Serving is a supreme art. God is the first servant. God serves men, but He's not a servant to men."



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