Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 3/23/00
Life is Beautiful
Series - 1997 (1999) - Miramax (Buena Vista)
review by Brad Pilcher of
The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras):
Specs and Features
116 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided,
single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, Making
Life Beautiful featurette, TV spots, film-themed menu
screens, scene access (27 chapters), languages: Italian and English
(DD 5.1), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned
"What kind of
place is this? It's beautiful: pigeons fly, women fall from the sky!
I'm moving here!"
On the list of sensitive subjects, the Holocaust rates rather high.
It's a subject so saddening in its very nature, that the notion of a
comedy on the subject is almost unthinkable. Roberto Benigni,
however, has not only done that very comedy, he's done it better
than anybody ever could with Life is
The accomplishment is achieved in large part because the Holocaust
isn't the focus of the film. Benigni has made a film entirely about
the human capacity for love. The plot goes something like this.
Benigni is Guido, a lively young man who moves to a large Tuscan
town and falls in love with a local school teacher named Dora. Guido
is also Jewish, but this fact isn't revealed until almost half-way
through the film. The first half deals with the humorous antics of
Guido as he attempts to win over the heart of Dora. The second half
of the film takes place some five years after this courtship. Dora
and Guido have a child now and are happily married, but the humorous
nature of Guido is put to the test as his family is shipped off to
concentration camps by the Nazis. Determined to keep his son
shielded from the horror around them, Guido invents an elaborate
fiction to make his child think it's all just a game.
Benigni has been compared, a great deal, to Charlie Chaplin. The
comparison is perhaps more deserved for Benigni than any other. He's
referred to Chaplin as a hero of his, and his humor is decidedly
physical in a very Chaplin-esque way. In fact, Benigni's prison camp
uniform number is the same as Chaplin's uniform number in
The Great Dictator. The
photography in the film is stunning, but the strength of the movie
is in its script and the acting of Benigni. His comedic talents are
unmatched, but his inflections are incredible. There is a scene
where Benigni is trying to explain to his son where they are being
taken. He concocts a humorous fiction on the spot, but his face
tells the tale of his fear. It's absolutely splendid in every sense
of the word.
The video on the disc is good, but not the best it could be. There
is apparent film grain in some scenes and minor defects can be seen
periodically. This is not a major flaw, but the video could still be
better. One thing that would have helped would have been an
anamorphic transfer, which is lacking here. However, the colors must
be noted. They are vibrant and distinct, really showing up well on
this disc. The audio is also good, but lacks a certain spatial feel.
Again, this is good but not incredible.
The extras aren't anything to write home about. The theatrical
trailer is complemented by a series of TV spots. This would be very
nice if they didn't all look virtually the same. After the first
few, they begin melding together and you just want to go back to the
menu. A very nice featurette is included, but it isn't entirely
insightful. What you get instead is a very good sense of the
popularity and acclaim that Life is
Beautiful has achieved. Good, but not great.
In the end, the technical side of this disc remains just that:
good, but not great. The film, on the other hand is incredible, far
exceeding great. It is definitely worth adding to your collection,
and the technical weaknesses of the disc in no way detract. Give it
a spin, and you will feel the triumph of human spirit.