Comedy and the Holocaust in Roberto Benigni’s Life Is Beautiful/La vita è bella

in The Changing Face of Evil in Film and Television
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This chapter examines the issues surrounding Life Is Beautiful/La vita è bella (1997) by Italian director Roberto Benigni. It offers first-hand information from Benigni’s historical advisor on the film, Marcello Pezzetti, regarding the history of Holocaust representation in Italian cinema. The approaches that Benigni and his screenwriter Vincenzo Cerami used are analyzed and discussed. The chapter concludes that the very idea of realism in the Holocaust is paradoxical since no amount of technical artifice can adequately portray the evil of the event. Benigni and Cerami therefore decided to rely on the evocative power of the spectator’s imagination in order to avoid the “hyper-reality” typically associated with the contemporary cinema.