Movies with war as a theme typically focus on the experiences of soldiers and the battlefield. Just google "war movies," and you'll see what we mean. Platoon, Saving Private Ryan, Full Metal Jacket, Black Hawk Down, the list goes on. While you can call Life Is Beautiful many things, "typical" isn't one of them. This is a movie about war, but it chooses to focus on war from a different perspective. Or, more to the point, the victim's perspective.
The first half shows the slow yet ever-encroaching dangers of war, subtly hidden within a love story. In fact, it's only with the hindsight of history that we, the audience, can see these dangers so plainly—like a hidden picture puzzle we've played before. The second half shows how the politics and hate that led to war result in unimaginable suffering.
And all ultimately for nothing since, as we already know, Italy and fascism lost the war.
Questions About Warfare
Do you agree that the film's a war film? Why or why not?
Why do you think the soldier characters, other than Dr. Lessing, don't have names? What purpose does this serve in the film?
Why do you suppose the film chooses to not focus on the lives of soldiers and guards?
Chew on This
Although Life Is Beautiful takes place during World War II, the world it presents is completely fictional and lacks much of the nuance of the socio-political landscape of Italy during those years. Hey, it's a movie.
The film uses World War II and the Holocaust to make an argument for the beauty of love and life. That ain't easy.