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Guido (Roberto Benigni) is a young Jewish man with a childlike innocence and imagination who dreams of owning a book shop. With his poet friend, Ferruccio, Guido comes to the Tuscan town of Arrezzo seeking fortune and romance, ignoring the growing anti-Semitism and the Fascist government. Guido falls in love with Dora (Nicoletta Braschi), a beautiful young school teacher and a fairy tale romance ensues. Four years later, in the happiest year of their lives with a beautiful little boy, the fairy tale shatters when Guido and his son are sent to a concentration camp three months before the war's end. Out of love, Dora deports herself on the same train. Now in a nightmare world, Guido must use his bold imagination and every ounce of his indefatigable spirit to save those he loves.

"Effervescent, uplifting, comedic and tragic, Life is Beautiful is an extraordinary film whose glorious spirit explodes on screen like fireworks. It elicits the widest swings on the pendulum– from the ridiculously silly to the most painful. This wondrous world where imagination propels emotions to the highest pinnacle, the very essence of romanticism, is showcased to the highest degree. Roberto Benigni has created a magical world seen through the rose coloured glasses of his character’s imagination; this mechanism for survival puts a bright slant on the grimmest of moments. There's an energy, vigor and joy for life that is totally contagious. The script is crafted with skill and flair; there are visual gags, running gags and a reason for everything that happens throughout. With a simple edit, Life is Beautiful displays the most effective jump in time that I have ever seen in film – it is unexpected, artistic and absolutely effective. Music is used to utmost –Offenbach's Tales of Hoffman is totally unforgettable and emotionally overwhelming. The settings and locations in the first half are picturesque and full of poetry. The performances are simply wonderful – Benigni is phenomenal; Braschi bewitching and four year old Cantarini indescribable. It's a matter of taking the cards you're dealt and imagining they're aces. Uplifting, funny, sad, moving and overwhelmingly romantic, Life is Beautiful is a magnificent bitter-sweet cinematic gem to savour, enjoy and cherish. Definitely my favourite film of the year."
Louise Keller

"The publicity material for this film describes it as ‘Chaplinesque’. This is accurate in a sense; but don’t think this means Life is Beautiful is a playful romp. It does have echoes of Chaplin - but it is the Chaplin of The Great Dictator rather than The Floorwalker. Co-written, directed by and starring Roberto Benigni - usually thought of as Italy’s answer to Jacques Tati - Life is Beautiful is, in large part, not a comedy. In the first half of the film, the loveable Guido uses his rather offbeat humour and childlike innocence to woo the initially reluctant Dora. There are some genuinely funny moments in this segment; and even though dark undertones of anti-Semitism are present, they are generally swamped by Guido’s charming manner. But in the second half, after the family is sent to a concentration camp and Guido tries desperately to protect his son’s life, the ‘humour’ has a different tone. Guido’s mannerisms and breezy attitude haven’t outwardly changed; but in context, they’re being used for intensely dramatic, not comic, effect. And this is the magic of the film - Benigni has created a deceptively simple story of human dignity and hope that transcends cinematic labels. The heart of the film is Benigni’s wonderful performance as Guido. While the supporting cast is also good, special mention should be made of Giorgio Cantarini who is especially effective as Joshua. Life is Beautiful is a marvellous film that touches and enriches."
David Edwards

"This endlessly creative film bristles with irony – its title a good indication of Benigni’s effortless play with the concept. Life is NOT beautiful, especially for Jews in World War II, unless you paint it so. But while the war is its setting, the film is much fresher than that implies. Nothing will prepare you for Benigni’s extraordinary Guido, and his ability to be at once a fool and the wise man. This is at the heart of the film, the portrayal of a man who is what Shakespeare’s fools were: childlike and foolish, simple on the surface, yet profoundly wise and sensitive in the matters of living life to its full importance. That apparent contradiction is the engine for Life is Beautiful, and – being unique - it will touch you like no other film. The role fits Benigni like a tailored glove, giving his clown-like persona a fitting gravitas, and letting us see compassion and love through his unique, uplifting eyes. Impressively, the film never puts an emotional foot wrong in what is a far more complex and profound work than it appears to be. Moving, exciting, wonderful cinema. It deserves its Grand Jury Prize."
Andrew L. Urban

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CAST: Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, Giorgio Cantarini, Giustino Durano, Sergio Bustric, Marisa Paredes, Horst Buchholz, Lydia Alfonsi

DIRECTOR: Roberto Benigni

PRODUCER: Elda Ferri, Gianluigi Braschi

SCRIPT: Vincenzo Cerami, Roberto Benigni


EDITOR: Simona Paggi

MUSIC: Nicola Piovani


RUNNING TIME: 116 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 1998

AWARDS: Grand Jury Prize, Cannes 1998; Eight David di Donatello (Italian Oscar) awards including Best Picture, Actor, Director and Screenplay

VIDEO RELEASE: December 30, 1999

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Home Entertainment

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