Historical Movie Analysis: Life Is Beautiful


Life is beautiful is a comedy/ drama film that was directed by Roberto Benigni, and released on November 6th of 1998. This movie is created in the time period of the Holocaust in 1939 and shot in Arezzo, Italy. The film is based on a real-life story about a Jewish-Italian man named Rubino Romeo Salmoni, whose story is narrated through a young boy named Guido Orefice (Giorgio Cantarini). The director is trying to portray the Holocaust atrocities to the viewers in a powerful way that is still appropriate. The movie covers the treatment of the Jews/ non- Jews in ghettos and concentration camps, them being forcefully removed and expelled from their homes, and not being provided basic essential needs for survival, etc. Life is beautiful, is a useful historically accurate source that demonstrates the significance of the Holocaust by showings of the major events of what happened in real life Canadian/world history.

The main themes in the film is cross- cultural interaction, major historical events, values/ beliefs, etc of the Holocaust. The movie is about an Italian Jewish waiter named Guido Orefice (Roberto Benigni), who meets a school teacher named Dora (Nicoletta Braschi) that slowly falls in love with him. Into the future, they have a son together name Giosue Orefice and share many happy years together as a family. Darker events start to occur when Guido, Giosue, and Uncle Eliseo (Giustino Durano) gets kidnapped to the Auschwitz camp in Poland, along with Dora who commanded to be let on the train to the camp. In Guido’s hopes of protecting his son Giosue from the horrors and truths of the situation, he made up a game where he told his son that if he followed all his rules, he would earn points, if he earned 1,000 points he would win a real-life tank as the first place prize at the end of the game. This movie shows the viewers the importance of the major events that took place through the narration of the boy telling his story, about the sacrifice his father made during that time and the other perspective/ experiences through the characters. This is accurately demonstrating the real- life events in Canadian/ world history, making it a credible source.

Major historical events

This film is a useful historical credible source due to the many major events that are shown in the movie from 1939- 1945, which corresponds to the main events in Canadian/ world history. The major events are the main focus In the movie Life is Beautiful, many crucial events related to the Holocaust took place which demonstrated the experiences of Jews and non- Jews during World War Two. Holocaust in the lower case form is known for the violent deaths of different groups of people which became a worldwide common reference to the mass murder of Jews and non- Jews in the early 1960s. One major historical event that took place in the plot was the execution of the Jewish people in the concentration camps. The mother/wife Dora, was glad that her son Giosue would not be able to do forced labor due to him being a child, saying In life of beautiful by Roberto Benigni “At least they don't make the children and old people work” but, soon immediately she finds out from a female prisoner who said “They don't make them work because they kill them! One day, you will hear a lady calling, “Kids, come take a shower,” “then they gas them!” This is a scene that accurately shows one of the most frequent ways the Nazis murdered the Jews and other groups of people who were children, elders or anyone who was unfit for work. The scene specifically shows the Germans murdering these types of people using gas (Zyklon B), they show the priests luring the children into the showers by calling out “Kids, come take a shower” and releasing gas and shutting the door lock, they don’t show these characters such as Uncle Eliseo(Giustino Durano) the elder any longer after this scene because they’re dead.

During a scene, Guido was taking his son back to their barrack in the camp during the night after a previous scene of them serving the Germans in a restaurant. The father Guido wanders back lost where he discovered piles of dead bodies which seemed to be millions. He looks with a shocked face, then heads back to the men's barracks speechless. This is an accurate representation of the approximate deaths during the Holocaust because there isn’t an exact number, the director did a good job visually showing the viewers the outcome of the camps by the deaths and dead bodies. The scene is accurately representing the thoughts and feelings that went through the victims of the Holocaust when they saw the massacre was happening to them because of the religion they chose to follow.

The ending event of the movie is when the Nazis were shooting the Jews and non- Jews who were in sight to hide their evidence after they heard the Anglo-Americans and Soviet troops were coming to the camps, after finding out what the Germans were doing. This is accurately showing the ending of the war in 1945, how it ended, the thoughts and feelings of the different perspectives and the results which shows the viewers historically what took place in the final year of the Holocaust in World War Two.

Values and/or beliefs

The theme throughout the movie covers the values/ beliefs of those who were against the Jews/ Non- Jews and those who weren’t. In the very beginning scene of the film they show two characters named Guido Orefice and his friend Ferruccio Papini (Sergio Bini Bustric) passing through a crowd in Italy, Arezzo being mistaken as Hitler, in the scene, a huge crowd of people is shown all waving their hands in a sign of “Heil Hitler” and many people shouting out Hitler, which shows that many people looked up to him as a person and leader, which corresponds to agreeing to him and his ideologies, values, and beliefs. Several scenes were shown where the Jews and non- Jews were getting harassed by the Germans who were known as the fascist. One of these scenes were when the Germans destroyed the inside of a character named Uncle Eliseo house, he was left on the ground when asked who they were he shouted out “ Barbarians, their Barbarians.' This is showing the prejudiced against the Jews and non- Jews that was happening in the Italian Jewish population during that time. Many more scenes were shown like the one where a horse was vandalized in green paint with the words “Jewish Horse” by the fascists. Lastly in a scene shown with characters Guido and his son Giosue walking passed a shop saying “No Jews or dogs”, Giosue asked saying “why aren't Jews or dogs allowed to go in?” Guido responds with, “they just don't want Jews or dogs to go in. Everybody does what they want to.' In these many events of the movie, they show the values and beliefs of not only the leader Adolf Hitler but all the individual German citizens who believed that the Jewish/ non- Jewish people were not equal to them. The director accurately demonstrates what the Germans did to show what they believed in by their actions towards the different groups and the antisemitism that was happening and spreading throughout the Jewish population to show what these cultures faced in real life.

Cross-cultural interaction

Cross-cultural interaction shows how the directors demonstrated this in the movie by scenes where different races came into contact, just like the many interactions that happened during World War Two in Canadian/World history. A scene between the Germans and the Jews was when they came into contact with one another, the Germans were harassing the Jews/non-Jews as mentioned before. They come into further and closer interaction in the concentration camp scenes when they first arrived at the camp and the several years, they spent with one another in the camp which shows the relationships of the two cultures interacting. The scene/ event shown in the ending of the movie between the Anglo-Americans, the Soviet troops, and Jews/non-Jews shows the Anglo-Americans and the Soviet troops coming to the camp. The Germans scrambled to erase all evidence, which led to the end of the Holocaust, and people leaving the camp because of the Americans and Soviet troops discovering the atrocities of the Germans. This scene shows that they rescued the Jews/ non- Jews and specifically saved the little boy Giosue who reunited with his mother Dora. This is accurately representing the various interactions that happened between these races throughout the years, which is being shown by characters interacting with different cultures as of what happened during the Holocaust.

Historical Significance

The Life is Beautiful film is a credible source that analysis the historical skills of the Holocaust by showing major events that took place during that time. The director did a good job in portraying the experiences of the individuals, what they faced, and how their lives were. The most major event that took place was the genocide of the Jews and other groups of people who were Roma (gypsies), homosexuals, communists, mentally or physically handicapped, etc. The Jews/non-Jews were brought to the camp to be removed from the society, imprisoned, or to oppose a threat to party leaders such as the social, political, and cultural movements. The Holocaust is an important part of Canadian/world history that is teaching the viewers through the movie about the traumatic events, the suffering, starvation, and deaths of people that occurred by the power of Hitler. The director chose the scene where the Germans were killing the children, elders, or anyone in the Germans eyes that were unable to work to demonstrate the historical significance. The Jews and non-Jews were sent to the killing centers to carry out their persecution, known as the “Final solution” Germans were shown sending children and elders to “gas chambers” for their deaths by tricking them into thinking they were taking showers. This is significant to Canadian/world history because the experiences of the gas chambers and killings that happened in the movie are also what took place during the Holocaust due to the Nazi policy under Adolf Hitler's rule that killed approximately eleven million Jews and non-Jews.

Historical Perspective

The director showed and portrayed an accurate overall representation of the number of Jews and non-Jews that were sent to the concentration camp, in the movie they arrived too the Auschwitz camp. Out of the forty-eight concentration camps and extermination camps built and operated by Nazi Germany in Poland, they showed to the viewer's large amounts of people who were living in the Italian community being loaded onto trains. When the main characters were shown arriving at the camp, they showed a scene of the place which was full of men and women of different ages. This demonstrated that a lot of people were sent to the camp, and throughout the film, they showed slowly the decrease in the Jews/non-Jews population, with the scene that seems to be over a million dead bodies. They didn’t mention an exact number of how many groups of people arrived due to their not being an exact document or number regarding the situation. The Germans collected as many Jews/non-Jews and brought them to the camp, where millions were killed and many deaths were not recorded. The perspectives that were shown were the three main characters and their experiences, Guido Orefice demonstrates a father and husband who tries his best to protect his family, the son Giosue Orefice as a little boy who doesn’t have any understanding of the situation and is showing the experience of children and what they faced. Lastly, the mother and wife Dora who demonstrated women's perspective/experience during the war. These demonstrate the different

Cause and consequence

In the film many events/ themes were encountered that showed various consequences to the society, the film accurately shows how the events came to be and what the short- and long- term consequences were throughout the timeline of the Holocaust. Effects that occurred in the main events of the movie are the characters times spent at the concentration camp, most people who were their caught diseases and were prisoners who faced undernourishment and starvation. They caught diseases like tuberculosis, malaria, meningitis, pemphigus, Durchfall, dysentery, etc. The people were given no rights in the movie and were shown being treated badly and forced to do slave labor, etc, leading to millions of Jews and other groups of people to die. Other immediate effects that occurred in the movie is when they showed the population of Jews decreasing, this led to a lower population of Jews and non-Jews today, according to data approximately 14 million Jews are living in the world now compared to 16 million before the Holocaust, the movie visually shows millions of dead bodies of those who died at the camp and slowly shows less people being at the camp towards the ending of the movie. This accurately shows visually the decrease in the Jews and non-Jews population in the movie to demonstrate the amount of reduction during the Holocaust in Canadian history. The Jews and non-Jews who survived from the Holocaust had long-term effects like post-traumatic stress disorder from their experience, and most people who could leave after the war didn’t have any place to live and be, due to their homes being taken by other people, loved ones being gone, anti semitism, etc. Many people were scared to go back home because they didn’t feel safe. The movie specifically shows the people at the camp when they first arrived being healthy and strong, throughout the movie until the end they start to be shown weaker due to the lack of food, diseases, work, etc.

Continuity and change

In the film, the themes main historical events, cross- cultural interactions, values/beliefs and more for the Holocaust is presented as a timeline to show the various changes of the film accurately. At the beginning of the movie, they showed two of the main characters falling in love with one another, into the future they show them having a son and living happily together as a family. Further, throughout the movie darker main events start to occur, the Nazi party starts to kidnap the Jews and other people from their homes and send them to the camp. The Jews/non-Jews were all mostly healthy when brought to the camps, throughout their days there, they are working in impossible circumstances while not being provided enough food and nutrition causing them to become unhealthy and malnourished. Towards the ending of the movie, most of the Jews/ non-Jews were dead from either the killing centers, being shot, physical harassment, or from the diseases and starvation that they got from the bad conditions, shortage of supplies, forced labor, etc. These are all universal truths that remain the same in the world to the innocent lives of Jews and non-Jews that were taken away by the Germans. The Jews before the Holocaust were living their lives and slowly throughout the years, they were either forced to live in ghettos or imprisoned in concentration camps, which isolated them from the rest of the society and either changed their lives in a negative way or took their lives away. Another universal truth that still remains the same in our world and history is the Holocaust and the killing of six million Jews and millions of other people. For those who survived they either had diseases/ health conditions or suffered from post-traumatic stress from their experience, lost loved ones, anti-semitism, etc.


Life is beautiful, is a useful historically accurate source not only for its coverage towards the major worldwide event known as the Holocaust but also for the educational lesson and examination the movie gives to the viewers about the basic moral issues. The Holocaust was not an accident in Canadian history, it occurred due to groups, governments, organizations that allowed discrimination to be legalized and there to be hatred and prejudice. This movie gives an accurate overview of the themes by showing scenes of the events that took place in real life and the different perspectives/ experiences people faced through the casted characters. It also shows the interactions between the cultures that came in contact, and the different values and beliefs. Life is beautiful is recommended to history students because it gives you an accurate basic knowledge of the factors that cumulatively resulted in the world-wide event known as the Holocaust.  

16 December 2021
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