Conjuring keys and hats out of thin air, Guido (Roberto Benigni), a clever Jewish-Italian waiter, successfully courts Dora (Nicoletta Braschi), a beautiful local woman, in Fascist pre-WWII Italy. His life, however, is turned upside down a few years later when he, Dora, and their young son, Giosu (Giorgio Cantarini), are sent to a Nazi concentration camp. Refusing to give up hope, Guido tries to protect his son's innocence by pretending that their imprisonment is just an elaborate game, with the grand prize being a tank.
For years the box-office champ in Italy and the country's most beloved slapstick comic, the Chaplinesque Benigni took a huge risk with LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL. Many people worried that the film would be as offensive as plopping a cartoon character in Auschwitz. (A similar work--THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED, a Jerry Lewis film about a comedian in a concentration camp--turned out to be a disaster two decades earlier.) Although LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL did provoke some controversy, many people found the film to be a poignant, tragicomic story that profoundly reaffirmed the humanity of concentration camp victims. The film became the highest grossing foreign language film in the U.S. and established Benigni as an international star.
Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film 1998
Cannes Jury Prize 1998
Academy Awards Best Actor 1998 Roberto Benigni Italian Actor/Director
Academy Awards Best Original Score 1998 Nicola Piovani Composer, FRED & GINGER (1986)