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Life Is Beautiful (in Italian La Vita è bella) is a 1997 Italian language film which tells the story of an Italian Jew, Guido Orefice (played by Roberto Benigni), who lives in a romantic fairy tale, but must learn how to use that dreamy quality to survive a concentration camp. The film won Academy Awards for Best Music, Original Dramatic Score and Best Foreign Language Film, and Benigni won Best Actor for his role. The film was nominated for Academy Awards for Directing, Film Editing, Best Picture, and Best Original Screenplay.

Benigni was publicly praised by Jewish groups for embracing and publicizing the Holocaust. Others praised him for his daring and creative skill in successfully making a sensitive comedy about the tragedy, an artistic challenge that even Charlie Chaplin admitted he would not have attempted with The Great Dictator had he known the full horrors commited in Nazi Germany. Yet some have criticized Benigni for trivializing the Holocaust as sort of a childish game. For example, in one scene, Benigni's character misinterprets instructions from a German soldier to convince his son that he's playing a game. The misinterpretation, meant as humor, placed other captives in jeopardy under the gravest of circumstances. However, right after Guido finishes his mistranslation, he tells the other captive, who is fluent in German, to tell all of the other men what the guards really said.

Plot

The first half of the movie is a whimsical, romantic comedy and often slapstick. Guido, a young Italian Jew, arrives in a big city where he sets up a bookstore. Guido is both funny and charismatic, especially when he romances Dora, whom he steals – at her engagement – from her rude and loud fiancé. Several years pass, in which Guido and Dora have a son, Giosué.

In the second half of the movie, Guido, his uncle, and Giosué are taken to a concentration camp on Giosue's birthday. Not wanting to leave her family, Dora ask to join them, which she does. In an attempt at keeping up Giosué's spirits, he convinces him that the camp is just a game – a game in which the first person to get a thousand points wins a tank. He convinces Giosué that the camp guards are mean because they want the tank for themselves, that all the other children are hiding in order to win the game, and puts off every attempt of Giosué's ending the game and returning home by convincing him that they are in the lead for the tank. Somehow, despite being surrounded by rampant death and disease, Giosué doesn't question this fiction.

Guido maintains this story right until the end, when – in the chaos caused by the American advance drawing near – he tells his son to stay in a pillbox until everybody has left, this being the final test before the tank is his. Guido is killed in the night as he is discovered searching for Dora, whom he is trying to warn not to get on the buses for they will take her to the gas chambers. Giosué survives, thinks he's won the game when an American tank arrives to liberate the camp, and is reunited with his mother by the American tank commander.

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