Monday, December 17, 2012

La Vita è Bella

 La Vita è Bella (Life is Beautiful) is a 1997 Italian tragicomedy directed by, and starring, Roberto Benigni. He stars as Guido, a Jewish man who moves from the countryside to the city; in the process he falls in love with Dora, a school-teacher, whom he always greets with cries of, "Buongiorno principessa!" (Good day princess!). He breaks up her engagement to an anti-Semitic civil servant in an outrageously comedic fashion (Benigni is funny not only for the sake of humor, but he manages to put down every bit of Fascist and Nazi ideology à  la The Great Dictator), and they eventually have a son, Giosuè. But, on the day before Giosuè's birthday, his store is marked and closed to non-Jews...of course, this is what he wants in a satirical way, because Guido's got a funny bone, and since he's banned from stores, he might as well ban the Visigoths from his. On the kid's birthday, Guido, Giosuè, and Guido's uncle are turned in by Dora's mother (who is mighty angry that she married a Jewish man) and sent to a concentration camp. Fearing the separation, Dora forces the Nazis to put her on the train too. The adults know exactly what's going on, for it is at least the fall 1943-the timeline is shaky- and the Nazis have taken over Italy. With it comes the deportation of Italian Jews. Guido made the decision to say that it was a game, and takes his undermining of German and Fascist authority to a whole new level. The goal is to get a tank, and each obstacle is there so that it's hard to get the tank. The game is played right up until the end; the camp is being emptied, and Guido made an escape attempt. He is caught in true slapstick fashion (I mean, the spotlight catches him, passes him, and then bobs up and down over him! Straight out of Chaplin.) Guido is executed, but not after goose-stepping away, to Giosuè's delight. The next morning, the camp is liberated by...guess...wait for American tank!! The film closes with the young lad in his mama's arms, shouting, "We did it! We won!" (It sounds way better in Italian, it's adorable, and his mother was completely clueless as to why he was saying it.)

So why did I spoil the plot? (Actually, I didn't, since it's just one of those well-made films that can't be spoiled in a brief summary. GO SEE IT, by the way) I did it because, some people-make that the mainstream media and dumb adults who have proven you can't trust the judgment of adults with handling your children- feel it's OK to talk about evil in an open fashion with even the smallest child. Each child must grow in his recognition of sin. For heaven's sake, some children who went to school today crying were probably below the age of reason, and thus *can't* understand evil! I love Guido's example, and his son in the opening and closing narration has a great appreciation for his father's sacrifice, because of the construction of the game.

Even I was upset on Friday, because our principal announced what had happened on the afternoon announcements. I was frightened, because he described it as a school shooting in another state, and there was the very real possibility that it was at my old high school...

We cannot destroy the innocence of a child. When a child does encounter evil, hopefully he or she is baptized, and so there is no danger of them falling into mortal sin, and we need to allow children the ability to grieve naturally. It will not hit a child in the same way it hits adults, and we can learn from the example of children during tragic and devastating circumstances.

Stop putting your own fear of mortality onto a child, who will be better off than you if you both died the next second. Please, go to Confession and Holy Communion frequently. God is the author of life, and gave us the gift of life, which is beautiful. We are made for eternal life, and should live like we are, and we should also remember that the battle is won. God conquered evil upon the Cross, on Good Friday (I learned that's why it's called Good Friday when I was about 7, by the way). We might be in our own battle, but the Lord will always protect us and guide us.

Also, stop with the platitudes when someone dies. PLEASE. 'Support the victims by wearing the school colors of Sandy Hook Elementary!' Guess what? That's utterly useless! How bout praying for the repose of the souls of the deceased, especially the faithful departed? Also, stop placing your emotions onto us...let us deal with it in our own makes people feel worse.

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