5. ‘Life is Beautiful’

Half of “Life is Beautiful” is a romantic, almost slapstick comedy about the seduction of an aristocrat by a Jew. But the latter half abruptly switches tone to a Holocaust history as the family is sent to a death camp. Writer-director Roberto Benigni tapped his father’s experience of being interned at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp to provide authenticity to the 1997 Italian film, while bringing a desperate charm to the story of a father willing to do anything to save his son from the reality of the Holocaust. Some critics complained that Benigni made a mockery of the horror by turning it into a game for a young child. Others realized the incredible strength and resistance portrayed by a father maintaining the fiction for his son, even when he knows he will be shot. “Life is Beautiful” won three Academy Awards in 1999.

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