By: Gabriela Yareliz
The film Life is Beautiful by Roberto Benigni is a film about a father’s love to mask the horrors of the Holocaust into a sort of game for his son, where the winner will take home a military tank. One sees the father do all sorts of things to bring comedy and light into their dark circumstances.
The movie was inspired by Benigni’s father, Luigi Benigni.
People Magazine reported in the 1999 piece, “Gift of Love – Vol. 51 No. 9“:
“The idea for Life Is Beautiful came from Benigni’s own father. Luigi Benigni, (…), was imprisoned in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp for two years after the German-Italian alliance collapsed; when he was liberated in 1945, he weighed only 90 pounds. Recounting his tale, he always sprinkled it with humor. ‘It was the way he was able to stand it,’ says Benigni. ‘He was able to tell the story, to unite the tragedy and the drama, with a laugh.'”
“Amidst poverty and hardships, the senior Benigni taught his children to see the bright side of every situation. Once, for nearly three weeks, the entire family had to sleep in a friend’s stable separated from a horse by only a plank of wood. Young Roberto saw it as an adventure—and does so to this day. ‘There was this face of a horse that we would see in the night looking at us from up high,’ he says. ‘It was beautiful—a bit like Jesus in the stall. It was fantastic sleeping there.'”
Benigni grew up sharing a bed with his siblings and his mother, and yet he retells so much of his childhood with fondness and wonder.
What makes the film so powerful is this notion that love is such a powerful gift that it saves us. This is a Christian philosophy to its core. Love literally saved us.
We often admire ideals and things in film but hold them in a category of fantasy. It’s impressive when a story that captures our hearts on film is based on reality.
I find powerful, this idea of having so much joy and humor in one’s heart, even after life’s very real hardships.
Benigni, who almost became a Catholic priest, is a believer and example of showing how to live a life of joy. He not only has lived a life of joy and imagination, but he has shared it with the world.
His legacy is an extension of his father’s legacy. It’s one that tells us that amidst tragedy, horror and want, we can experience full joy and move on to brighter days. It’s a reminder that life really is beautiful, and it’s up to us to see that, day-by-day, no matter what the circumstance.