Life Is Beautiful ★★★★

Film Club Secret Cinema Round 19:

A surprisingly optimistic and joyful holocaust film. I didn't think that was possible and don't know how to feel about that.

It helps that the first half of the film has nothing to do with the holocaust and is more of a slapstick romantic comedy with Roberto Benigni's hi-jinx. All things considered, the film takes the plot shift very well and never really takes away that sparkle of life that was there from the start. The film has a way of slowly whittling that away to avoid that tonal whiplash and before you know it that joy you had is replaced by a depressing dramatic narrative with little hope in sight.

This kind of undying optimism in the face of certain death is something only someone like Benigni could have pulled off. In the hands of any other comedic filmmaker the tone would have felt forced and detracted from the quality to the point where it might have been offensive. What can I say? Roberto's got a dopey grin that I can't say no to. His chair walk at the Oscars reflects that energy perfectly.

The sadistic part of me wants this movie to be more sad even though that's not the purpose of the film. It has one or two pretty darn sad moments but nothing that really hits me in my core the way other holocaust films have. Though at the same time I really respect the film taking a completely different direction and angle with such a grim subject material. I really appreciate that its able to find the joy and laughter in situations that would otherwise be devoid of it. A pinch of optimism can make a world of difference to other people if you're willing to put that energy forward.