"Humor cuts oppressors down to size, takes their sting away, renders them powerless to destroy us. Don't give in to what diminishes you. . . . Learn to laugh at it and reduce its power over you," Joan Chittister has written. That spirit is at the heart of this Italian comedy that won the Grand Jury Prize at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival and three Academy Awards, including Best Foreign Language Film. Director Roberto Benigni shows how humor is a rich spiritual resource that enables us to cope with the unexpected and to smile through the unbearable.
Guido (Roberto Benigni) falls in love with Dora (Nicoletta Braschi) the moment he meets her in a small Italian town in 1939. Through a series of clever escapades he wins the heart of this upper-class school teacher he calls "princess." They marry and have a son (Giorgio Cantarini). Opening a small bookstore, Guido ignores the rising tide of anti-Jewish sentiment in town. Then one day, he and the boy are put on trains with the other Jews and sent to a concentration camp.
The rest of the film deals with Guido's daring creation of an elaborate game in order to keep his son's from comprehending the harsh reality of suffering and death going on around them. Life Is Beautiful shows how laughter can set the spirit free even in the most dire circumstances. The film also makes it clear that Guido is willing to do anything to keep his son from harm's way.