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Past Films

Life Is Beautiful (Drury @ The Moxie)

  • Starring: Nicoletta Braschi, Roberto Benigni
  • Director: Roberto Benigni
  • Genre(s): Drama, Romance, War
  • Languages: English, German, Italian
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Running Time: 116 min.

Dr. Rich Schur will lead a post show discussion of the film.

Great insights to great films courtesy of Drury’s Humanities faculty.
This series is made possible by a grant from the Missouri Humanities Council.

Life is Beautiful (1997) won numerous awards, including the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film, Best Actor in a Leading Role, and Best Original Score and received nominations for Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Editing. The film is a comedy and set during the Holocaust. It tells the story of a Jewish librarian who uses fantasy and humor to shield his son from the grim reality of the death camps. This excellent and funny film, however, raises significant questions about the nature of comedy. Some critics argued that the film sanitized the Holocaust, misrepresenting the horror of the events, what the Nazis’ victims endured, and the heroic actions of actual survivors. Other defended the film and believed it told a powerful story with humane values. In the post-film discussion, we will revisit this controversy and explore whether there are some limits comedy should not and cannot cross.

"One of the greatest films about the civilian experience of war ever made anywhere. "
- Shawn Levy, Portland Oregonian
"Benigni, with great help from young Cantarini, has crafted a work of such complexity that you may find both your brain and your heart simply overloaded. Which, of course, is the rarely achieved goal of all art."
- Elizabeth Weitzman,
"A deeply moving blend of cold terror and rapturous hilarity. Lovingly crafted by Italy's top comedian and most popular filmmaker, it's that rare comedy that takes on a daring and ambitious subject and proves worthy of it."
- Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune
"To see someone even attempt bittersweet treatment of this subject is surprising, but to largely pull it off is a major feat. "
- Mike Clark, USA Today
"A rare blend of comedy and tenderness whose point is not the horrors of war but the lengths a parent will go to protect his child's innocence. "
- Jami Bernard, New York Daily News
"Benigni effectively creates a situation in which comedy is courage. And he draws from this an unpretentious, enormously likable film that plays with history both seriously and mischievously. Piety has no place here, nor do tears until the final reel. Life is Beautiful plays by its own rules."
- Elvis Mitchell, The New York Times
"The concept is not so much nihilistic as it is realistic, and the fact that Benigni has made such fine distinctions so powerfully clear is amazing and moving."
- Joshua Klein, The A.V. Club
"It's a high-wire act without a net, and Benigni pulls it off with astounding grace and sensitivity."
- Sean Means,
"In one bold stride, Benigni has set himself apart from the rank and file of funnymen, joining the elite class of clowns who know that humor and heartbreak are only a howl of pain apart."
- Michael O'Sullivan, Washington Post