Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Life is Beautiful (1997)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Life is Beautiful (1997, It.) (aka La Vita è Bella)

In actor/director Roberto Benigni's tragi-comedy - a Best Foreign Language Film winner:

  • the second half of the film - about the ugly horrors of a Nazi concentration camp, where clowning, child-like hotel waiter Guido Orefice (Oscar-winning Roberto Benigni) and his young son Giosue/aka Joshua (Giorgio Cantarini) were interred (and separated from his wife/mother); the scene of Guido volunteering to translate the German guard's rules of the camp - even though he didn't speak any German - he was able to creatively orchestrate the fiction of a life-saving, imaginative illusion with play-acting, to shield his son from the horrors, by stating that the first prize in the game they were playing was a brand-new armored tank: "The game starts now. Whoever's here is here, whoever's not is not. The first one to get a thousand points wins. The prize is a tank! Lucky him! Every day we'll announce who's in the lead from that loudspeaker. The one with the least points has to wear a sign saying 'jackass' right here on his back. We play the part of the real mean guys who yell. Whoever's scared loses points. In three cases, you'll lose all your points. One, if you start crying. Two, if you want to see your mommy. Three, if you're hungry and you want a snack. Forget about it!..."
  • the grim scene when Guido's wife Dora (Nicoletta Braschi, Benigni's real-life wife) learned from another Jewish camp member that the old people and children were not to work because they were to be executed: "They don't send old people and kids to work because they kill them! One of these days they'll call them to take a shower. 'Children, shower time!' The truth is, they make them shower there - in the gas chamber"; shortly later, young Giosue ran away when he was told it was shower time; he found his father, and stubbornly insisted that he wasn't going to take a shower; Guido told his boy to hide
  • the scene of Guido's shocking death after he was caught by a soldier during an escape attempt; he winked at his hidden son (concealed in a sweatbox and watching through the door slit) - playfully wanting him to know that things were still okay; he deliberately and clownishly marched to his execution by machine-gun fire (offscreen) - there was just a small report of machine-gun fire when he was sacrificially killed
Guido's Clowning For His Young Son in Concentration Camp
  • the concluding segment, when the young boy thought he had won the "game" as the camp was liberated by the Americans riding in tanks (the boy cried out joyfully: "It's true!"), and he was soon happily reunited with his freed mother Dora
The Boy's Sight of Liberating US Tank
Reunited with Freed Mother Dora
  • the older Giosue recalled in voice-over: ("This is my story. This is the sacrifice my father made. This was his gift to me"); the boy was happy about winning: ("We won!...A thousand points to laugh like crazy about! We came in first! We're taking the tank home! We won!")

Guido Volunteering to Translate - And Creating a Game Out of the Experience

Dora Learning About the Gas Chamber for Old People and Children

Giosue Refusing to Take a Shower

Guido's Death


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