top of page



Italy, 1997

Original title: La Vita e Bella

Directed by: Roberto Benigni

Produced by: Gianluigi Braschi and Elda Ferri

Screenplay: Roberto Benigni and Vincenzo Cerami

Cast: Nicoletta Braschi, Giorgio Cantarini, Giustino Durano, Sergio Bini Bustric, Horst Buchholz, Marisa Paredes

Music: Nicola Piovani

Photography: Tonino Delli Colli

Duration: 116 min

The Cheerful Sacrifice of Farce

By Ricardo P Nunes

    Little can be said about A Vida é Bela without adding drama to it, an ingredient that is already there in the exact measure for what it set out to represent. Not that the tragic and the fatality are absent, but contained in a meaning free of obviousness. The grace and ingenuity of Roberto Benigni's film are there, in their measure and subtlety, to exorbitate them would be to distort its message. We all already know the historical circumstances of its background, to some degree we have already experienced the pressure of uncertainty when the object of hope takes so long, the candors of the relationship between parents and children and the hero's dream. It turns out that it was among these worn, yet delicate, filigrees that the script found its unusual place: in a world in turmoil, its last version can only be that of a fantasy that imposes a single escape: that of denying it against all odds. facts and evidence to protect the innocent.


Farce and the game against the brutality of reality

    Conceiving this argument was perhaps not so difficult, but managing to demonstrate it without resorting to sentimental or philosophical dialogues, that is the achievement of A Vida é Bela. Furthermore, intentional or not, there are inescapable projections there, such as the permanent pretense of the character that Benigni embodies, Guido, with his jokes and antics, to spare his son the hardships they are experiencing, also giving us his generosity by moving us not for the what was most atrocious in that painting, but what was most beautiful and tender could still survive under its rubble. The feelings to which he is devoted are too dear to him for reality to be able to prevent him from experiencing them, for him to have time to regret the sacrifice.

   Written by Benigni himself together with Vincenzo Cerami, the screenplay was inspired by the book Ho Sconfito Hitler (I Defeated Hitler), by Rubino Romeo Salmonì who described with irony and wicked humor his Holocaust survival; the personal bond that is evident at all times is due to the memories that Benigni brought back from his father, who would humorously tell him about the adventures he had lived in a concentration camp during the Second World War. About the plot itself, it would be irrelevant to comment, since what he is really interested in revealing is the conversion of tragic perspectives into notes of hope that its own content unfolds, as well as the chance and persistence with which these feelings follow one another. . It would remain to say something about his exception in the world of cinema.


Benigni: "laughing and crying come from the same point of the soul"

   Muitas coisas podem carecer de descrição, de análise, basta olhá-las, mesmo para os que não podem se gabar de perspicácia. O cinema, pela própria natureza da sua matéria prima, imagens móveis, pareceu vir ao encontro do velho adágio que dizia que “os fatos falam por si”, estava fadado a ser a arte descritiva por excelência.
    Acontece que, em nome de uma busca cada vez mais profunda do que talvez estivesse cristalino desde a superfície, nos habituamos a desconfiar dessa simplicidade. No princípio, a arte buscava compartilhar, despertar, um sentimento, uma síntese, não elaborados esquemas analíticos que acabaram por torná-la refém de teorias conspiratórias e abstratos malabarismos conceituais e metalinguísticos.
   A ficção não era senão um artifício para a apreensão de uma realidade que se apresenta em fragmentos, um meio de alinhavá-la na forma de mito cuja força de persuasão ou acalento estava justamente na verossimilhança. O entretenimento não era um propósito, mas apenas um efeito. Ao que parece, invertemos essa sequência, quem sabe porque a vida mesma já se havia tornado um fardo pesado demais para que o real e o imediato continuassem sendo uma prioridade. Assim, o simples entretenimento converteu-se em meta, o que fez com que a ficção, ao invés de esclarecer, confundisse a realidade. A era do cinema rematou esse discernimento.


“Josef and I passed close to the Ramp, where a transport for children was arriving. [...] we saw little dresses and shoes, but there were no children. I asked Josef where they were. He told me, looking at the smoke from the crematoria: “There they are! they are leaving..." .

Romeo Salmonì, in: Ho Sconfito Hitler

Salmoni: the remedy for black humor

   Certainly, the origin of this illusion cannot be attributed to a fact, it is the work of centuries and generations. The way in which we came to claim it, however, is well illustrated by that famous case in which, at the end of the Second World War, a handful of heroic American soldiers, cornered in a clearing by ferocious enemies, appear in a cinematographic action film; the scene awakened those who knew the story and would generate a certain amount of diplomatic discomfort when an English official publicly alleged an usurpation; according to him, that situation, which actually occurred during the war, had actually occurred with a British troop. The quarrel was resolved by the simple sentence that would forever disqualify any future claim in this sense: no one there was discussing reality, that is, “this is nothing but fiction, my dear”. The reality was already given, and there was no copyright on the facts. From there to the fiction of fiction, it was just one more step. Enchanted and amusing step, but most of the time false. It moved on to planes alien to the law of gravity, to disfigured spheres in which the false assumptions of its logic remain coherent in the public's mind even after the session is over, and, the most damaging ¾ because it is harmful not only to art as sublimation , but as a model capable of providing valid experiences ¾, it has moved on to intrigues where characters constructed with irreconcilable scraps of multiple personalities act, which become entangled in hallucinatory plots (I believe there is a certain irony in the subtitle of the recent film Doctor Strange: in the multiverse of madness ) applauded by audiences that are increasingly unaware that, just like life, the world cannot be random or discontinuous.


The son who dwells in us

   This design and this continuity appear in Benigni's film under a somewhat yellowish light. But a cheerful and recovered light, not merely reflective. Perhaps, therefore, it is not right to speak of a generic art, nor of a universal, ecumenical cinema. A Vida é Bela represents a species, a rare bird of this genus. Once the film is finished, we understand that the main character was the boy, not the father, which Benigni himself reflected when he wrote, directed and acted in the film, as does his demented and credulous alter ego when guiding the crazy version of the world. which the boy needs to believe in order to endure reality. But he does not want to awaken regret, but tenderness. Benigni enters the film to follow the itinerary he had traced before, in the fantasy of the script, because he knows where he is going, not because Guido is a credulous clown, but because, if the universe is not a coincidence, its end before the sight of a rifle will only be a fake. And perhaps there is a mockery of reality and its ephemerality, against its brutality, but without revolt or bitterness. Perhaps it would be better to say disdain. In the end, we were left with the feeling that we were also portrayed there, but no longer as the hurried father with whom we had naturally identified ourselves at first, but as the helpless son in front of the world.

  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram
  • Facebook
bottom of page