Holocaust films have always attracted considerable attention from the public and the media, especially when it comes to the western world. Life Is Beautiful (1997) is one of the cinematographic works that stand out against the rest due to its use of humor, as well as an emphasis on personal experiences and family values. The artwork is characterized by quite a conventional approach to filmmaking, which puts the discussed themes and the articulated ideas to the fore. Life Is Beautiful (1997) is also an illustrative example of a work of art that appeared during the period of the exploration of the Holocaust. This paper includes a brief analysis of the film, its features, and the way it relates to the trends that existed in the late 1990s.
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Plot and Storyline
The film dwells upon the life of Guido Orefice in the pre-war time and during the Second World War. Guido, his wife, and their little son are sent to a concentration camp where Guido manages to keep his child alive until the camp prisoners are freed (Benigni, 1997). The storyline is straightforward as no retrospectives (apart from some remarks at the end of the film) are utilized. This approach contributes to the creation of a specific atmosphere of a story told by a survivor. The viewer follows the story that is regarded as a completely true account of a single person, Guido Orefice.
It is necessary to note that the editing techniques used, as well as cinematography, also contribute to the creation of an effect of a personal narrative or confession. The pace of shots transition varies to deliver certain messages and untwine the story. However, the overall pace of the narration is quite moderate although many abrupt transitions are employed (Benigni, 1997). For instance, the scene in the theatre consists of many shots that change quite quickly to reveal the protagonist’s eagerness and his future wife’s reaction.
As far as cinematography is concerned, it is characterized by the use of conventional techniques. For instance, the concentration camp is mainly depicted in a grey color scheme as some dirty and concrete structures are displayed.
The use of color helps filmmakers to reveal the hardships of the prisoners who were starving and overwhelmed with manual labor. At the same time, the setting of the concentration camp is rather remarkable as contrasting ideas are utilized. The beautiful natural background (picturesque mountains) is contrasted with the dull structures of the camp. The filmmakers make extensive use of medium shots to set the scene and create an effect of eye-witnessing. The viewer feels as if they are actually somewhere in proximity to the main characters. Close-ups are also used frequently to show the characters’ emotions that intensify the plot and bring out major themes and ideas.
Music and Sound
Music and sound are important elements of any film as these components help filmmakers to create the necessary atmosphere. Orchestral music prevails in Life Is Beautiful (1997), which makes the film more emotional. The music mainly plays softly without considerable abrupt transitions. Sound effects are appropriate and help in displaying the life in pre-war Italy or war-time concentration camps. It is noteworthy that the filmmakers do not employ any special effects. However, this can be regarded as a strength of the artwork since special effects could change the overall mood of the film. As mentioned above, Life Is Beautiful (1997) is perceived as a personal account so the inclusion of some non-realistic elements would disrupt the entire story.
Cast and Setting
At this point, it is possible to consider the cast of the film. All the main characters are believable, and the actors are appropriately cast. It is noteworthy that the protagonist’s life in the concentration camp is presented in quite a debatable way. The challenges and the dehumanization of the prisoners are not in the filmmakers’ lenses. Again, the filmmakers seem to choose to focus on the feelings that built resilience rather than depict exact historical facts. The description of the concentration camp is also quite schematic as the filmmakers seemed to try to avoid the horrible details.
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One of the most remarkable features of the film under analysis is its symbolism. For instance, one of the central symbols is the tank that recurrently appears in the film. The tank is the favorite toy of the protagonist’s son, and tanks are warfare tools that support the regime that causes so many sufferings. Moreover, the prisoners of the camp work to produce tanks that cause so much damage to humanity. The tank is also the bridge between reality and the game the father invented for a child to endure the horrors of imprisonment.
In conclusion, it is necessary to note that all the elements discussed above are used to articulate the major theme of the film, humor, and love helping people to live through any challenges. The filmmakers explored the aspect related to the Holocaust that is often under-researched. In the late 1990s, many facts and details of the phenomenon were analyzed as people came to an understanding that the survivors of the Holocaust are aging and passing away. Such films revealing certain memories about that period encouraged people to talk to those who survived to perpetuate this experience.
Benigni, R. R. (Director). (1997). Life Is Beautiful [Motion picture]. Italy: Cecchi Gori Group.