Audacious but misguided, this determinedly Chaplinesque comic fable starts well enough with the innocent, childlike Guido (Benigni) arriving in a Tuscan town in 1939 to visit his uncle, and courting, in typically eccentric fashion, local teacher Dora (Braschi), whom he manages to seduce away from her Fascist fiancé. So far, so amusing - but then, when the film flashes forward to the couple and their son being sent to a concentration camp, with Guido imaginatively turning events around them into a bizarre child's game in order to protect the boy from the ugly realities of the Holocaust, the whole thing turns sickly, not to say disingenuous (how come the villains are now German rather than Italian?). Well-meaning humanistic 'charm' and a 'poetic' approach to horror (including fuzzy shots of mountains of corpses) are inadequate to the task, and soon bogs down in manipulative and maudlin sentimentality.
Cast and crew
|Screenwriter:||Roberto Benigni, Vincenzo Cerami|