Life is Beautiful

Life is beautiful ( La vita è bella in Italian) is a 1997 film, written, directed and starring Roberto Benigni . Benigni plays Guido Orefice, an Italian Jew who owns a bookstore, who must use his fertile imagination to protect his little son from the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp . The story is partly based on the actual experience of Benigni’s father, who managed to survive three years of internment in Bergen-Belsen .

The film was a financial and critical success, and won three Oscars , for Best Soundtrack , the Best Actor and Best Foreign Film at the ceremony of 1998 , and many other international awards .


In 1939 , Guido Orefice ( Roberto Benigni ), a cheerful, fun and charismatic young Italian of Jewish origin, arrives at the house of his uncle in Arezzo to work as a waiter in his hotel. There he meets a young and beautiful teacher named Dora ( Nicoletta Braschi , wife in the real life of Roberto Benigni), who falls in love immediately and does his best to conquer her, calling her princess and greet her cheerfully with the phrase “Good morning, princess ! Every time he sees her, but she is the betrothed of a fascist official named Rodolfo.

The first half of the film shows the political change that is taking place in the country. Guido imitates the Nazi soldiers’ way of walking and parodies their racist and pseudo-scientific theories. One day, Dr. Lessing ( Horst Buchholz ) arrives at the hotel where Guido works , and immediately becomes a friend of his, since both are fans of riddles and spend time posing to each other. When the hotel celebrates the engagement party of Rodolfo and Dora, Guido arrives and confesses her feelings for her. Dora, who has never really been in love with Rodolfo, leaves with Guido on his horse. While all this is happening, the advance of fascism is increasingly evident: the business of Guido’s uncle and his horse are often covered with graffiti and anti-Semitic messages .

Six years later, in 1945 , Guido and Dora are married and have a son, called Giosuè ( Giorgio Cantarini ). Despite the war and the Nazi invasion of Italy, they remain happy. Guido opens a bookstore and Dora continues her work as a teacher. On Giosuè’s birthday, Guido, his uncle and Giosuè are arrested because of their Jewish origin and boarded a train to a concentration camp . While Dora is not Jewish, also it requires boarding the train to stay with his family, but on reaching the camp, men and women are immediately separated and uncle Guido and many others are sent directly to the gas chambers , as Are not considered useful to work. Guido hides to his son the terrible situation that they are living, making him believe that it is only a game in which they must earn points, and the first one that gains 1000 points will get an authentic tank . He also tells her that if she cries, asks for food or wants to see her mother, she will lose points, while if she hides from the field guards she will earn extra points.

Guido uses this fantasy to justify the reality that surrounds them: the guards treat them badly because they want the tank for them and the decreasing number of children (who are being killed in the gas chambers) is because they are hidden to win points. Guido manages to convince Giosuè not to want to leave telling him that they go in the head and only need a little more time to go home with the tank. Despite being surrounded by horror, sadness and death, Giosuè ends up believing everything thanks to the convincing story that tells his father and his own innocence.

One day, Guido meets the doctor he met at the hotel, become an SS officer , who is choosing the prisoners to be sent to the gas chambers. Seeing Guido, he recognizes him and does not send him to the cameras, and makes him work as a waiter at a dinner that will celebrate the military high command of the field. Guido takes advantage to take Giosuè with him and sit at the children’s table so that for a day he eats well. In a moment of dinner, Guido has a talk with the doctor, who raises a new riddle to help him solve, so Guido is disappointed because he had believed that the doctor was going to help him and his family To leave alive from the concentration camp.

One night there is a great stir in the countryside: the Germans are retreating before the arrival of the Allies because the war is over, but they want to kill all the prisoners before the Allies release them. Guido orders Giosuè to hide until everything calms down, because “they are about to win the prize”. Meanwhile, he goes in search of Dora to leave all together, but is surprised and shot by one of the guards. The next morning, the Germans have fled and Giosué comes out of hiding. Suddenly a tank appears, which he believes to be his prize. They are the Americans, liberating the field. They pick him up and along the way, among the released prisoners, Giosuè finds his mother and tells him that they have won.

The adult Giosuè voice-over ends: This is my story. That is my father’s sacrifice. That was the gift I had for myself .

Historical context

The film begins in 1939 , at the height of fascism in Italy.

Fascism grew thanks to social problems, unemployment and poverty, promising to create a strong and united Italy, ending the Jews, for it exalted violence and patriotism.

The anti – Semitism is one of the most extreme and violent forms of racism, responsible for the genocide of the Jews during World War II. The idea of the domination of a superior race , which constituted the ideological basis of the Holocaust, engendered phenomena of rejection, hatred, expulsion and finally led to genocide.

As a rule, this feeling of superiority is accompanied by the conviction that the other races pose a danger, or are likely to generate social disorders.


  • Roberto Benigni – Guido Orefice
  • Nicoletta Braschi – Dora
  • Giorgio Cantarini – Giosuè Orefice, son of Guido and Dora
  • Giustino Durano – Eliseo Orefice, uncle of Guido
  • Horst Buchholz – Dr. Lessing, a Nazi physician friend of Guido
  • Sergio Bustric – Ferruccio Papini, friend of Guido
  • Marisa Paredes – Mother of Dora
  • Amerigo Fontani – Rodolfo, promised fascist of Dora
  • Pietro De Silva – Bartolomeo, prisoner companion and friend of Guido
  • Francesco Guzzo – Vittorino
  • Raffaella Lebboroni – Elena
  • Gil Baroni – Prefect
  • Verena Buratti – German Auxilliar
  • Aaron Craig – US Soldier
  • Alais – German Auxilliar
  • Daniela Fedke – German Auxilliar
  • Alessandra Grassi – Teacher
  • Angelie Alais Adell – German Auxilliar
  • Gina Rovere – Dora’s dressing room


Original actor Dubbing Actor (Spain) Actor of dubbing (Latin America) Character
Roberto Benigni Jordi Brau Salvador Nájar Guido Orefice
Nicoletta Braschi Concha Valero Cony Madera Dora
Giorgio Cantarini Michelle Jenner What? Giosuè (Josué) Orefice
Giustino Durano Pepe Mediavilla Esteban Siller Uncle Eliseo Orefice
Amerigo Fontani Juan Carlos Gustems Alejandro Illescas Rodolfo
Marisa Paredes Marisa Paredes Anabel Méndez Mother of Dora
Sergio Bustric Alberto Mieza United States Ferruccio Papini
Pietro De Silva Paco Gázquez Roberto Mendiola Bartolomeo
Omero Antonutti Juan Antonio Bernal Carlos Becerril Giosuè Orefice (adult)

Awards and nominations

Main article: Annex: Awards and nominations of Life is beautiful

Life is beautiful was awarded with more than 50 international awards, including three Oscars, the Grand Prix of the Cannes Film Festival, the César for the best foreign film and the Goya for the best European film.

See also

  • Positive Psychology
  • The day that the clown cried ( 1972 ), an unfinished film of similar theme, directed and carried out by Jerry Lewis .
  • Holocaust
  • Second World War
  • Nazi Germany
  • Fascist Italy
  • The boy in striped pajamas


  1. Back to top↑ « THE VITA AND BELLA (LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL) (12A)» . Buena Vista International . British Board of Film Classification . 26 November 1998 . Retrieved on August 23, 2013 .
  2. Back to top↑ Box Office Information for Life Is Beautiful . The Wrap . Retrieved 4 April 2013
  3. Back to top↑ Life Is Beautiful Box Office Mojo Retrieved 28 December 2010