Life Is Beautiful

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Life Is Beautiful is a 1997 film about an Italian Jew - Guido - who helps his son survive the Holocaust by pretending it is all a game. The film leads us from the relatively normal existence Guido had before the war, during which he worked for his uncle, Eliseo; met his wife, Dora; and had a son, Joshua (Giosué). Then leaps forward into the persecution during the second world war followed by the incarceration in a German concentration camp, where the young Joshua is kept from the horror of the Holocaust by the promise that if he plays the game, he will earn a real tank.

The film is in Italian (although some lines are in German or English), and its original title is La vita è bella. The following quotes are taken from the official English subtitles.


  • What kind of place is this? It's beautiful: Pigeons fly, women fall from the sky! I'm moving here!
  • Buongiorno, Principessa! (Good Morning, Princess!)
  • (pretending to translate a German concentration camp guard's instructions to the new prisoners) The game starts now. You have to score one thousand points. If you do that, you take home a tank with a big gun. Each day we will announce the scores from that loudspeaker. The one who has the fewest points will have to wear a sign that says "Jackass" on his back. There are three ways to lose points. One, if you cry. Two, if you ask to see your mother. Three, if you're hungry and ask for a snack. Forget it!


  • My husband and son are on that train. I want to get on that train. Did you hear me? I want to get on that train.


  • Mum, we won, we won! (referring to the tank) no joke!


  • Nothing is more necessary than the unnecessary.


Guido: I forgot to tell you.
Dora: Go ahead.
Guido: You can't imagine how much I feel like making love to you. But I'll never tell anyone, especially not you. They'd have to torture me to make me say it.
Dora: Say what?
Guido: That I want to make love to you - not just once, but over and over again! But I'll never tell you that. I'd have to be crazy to tell you. I'd even make love to you now... right here for the rest of my life.

Guido: Mary! Send down the key! (speaking to the woman in the window)
Dora: (later) Mary! Send someone to give [him] a dry hat!
Man: (snatches hat off Guido's head, exchanges hats)

Guido: What are your political views?
Italian Official: [speaking to his two sons] Benito, Adolf! Be good !... Sorry Guido, what did you say?

Guido: (learning how to be a waiter) How far do I bow? I suppose I can even go 180 degrees.
Eliseo: Think of a sunflower, they bow to the sun. But if you see some that are bowed too far down, it means they're dead. You're here serving, you're not a servant. Serving is the supreme art. God is the first of servants. God serves men, but he's not a servant to men.

Giosué: "No Jews or Dogs Allowed." Why do all the shops say, "No Jews Allowed"?
Guido: Oh, that. "Not Allowed" signs are the latest trend! The other day, I was in a shop with my Chinese friend and his pet kangaroo, but their sign said, "No Chinese or Kangaroos Allowed," and I said to my friend, "Well, what can I do? They don't allow kangaroos."
Giosué: We let everyone in our shop, don't we?
Guido: Well, tomorrow, we'll put one up. We won't let in anything we don't like. What don't you like?
Giosué: Spiders.
Guido: Good I don't like Visigoths. Tomorrow, we'll get a sign: "No Spiders or Visigoths Allowed."

Guido: [being shipped to a concentration camp] You've never ridden on a train, have you? They're fantastic! Everybody stands up, close together, and there are no seats!
Giosué: There aren't any seats?
Guido: Seats? On a train? It's obvious you've never ridden one before! No, everybody's packed in, standing up. Look at this line to get on! Hey, we've got tickets, save room for us!

Giosué: Look, they stopped the train to let Mom get on.
Guido: Dora...


Note: these riddles are translated from the original Italian rather than taken from the official English subtitles. For this reason, though the meanings of the words are retained, the meanings of the riddles as a whole may not be.
  • The bigger it is, the less you see it
    • (Obscurity)
  • The dwarves and Snow White sit down for a bite. How fast can you guess what she serves her guests next?
    • (Seven Seconds!)
  • If you say my name I'm not there anymore. Who am I?
    • (Silence)
  • Fat, fat, ugly, ugly, all yellow in reality. If you ask me what I am I answer, 'Cheep, cheep, cheep.' Waling along I go, 'Poopoo'. Who am I? Tell me true.
    • (A duckling)

Referring to cowardice, and 'quack, quack, quack' (in Italian- "coin, coin, coin") Roberto Benigni states that there is no answer to this riddle, symbolizing the pointlessness of the war. In reality, the riddle was told by a Nazi so the answer is a Jew.

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