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!
Quotes from Life is Beautiful
Guido: What kind of place is this? It's beautiful: Pigeons fly, women fall from the sky! I'm moving here!
Guido: You can do anything you want in the city. If you want to yell, yell. (His friend yells) Guido: Stop it! What are you, crazy? You can’t act like you do in the country. You’ve been acting like a madman. You can’t yell!
Guido’s friend: Shopenhauer says that with willpower, you can do anything. “I am what I want to be.” Right now, I want to sleep, so I was saying to myself, “I’m sleeping, sleeping” and I fell asleep.
Joshua: "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." Joshua: 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? Joshua: Spiders. Guido: Good. I don't like Visigoths. Tomorrow, we'll get sign: "No Spiders or Visigoths Allowed."
Guido: The prize is... the prize is... Eliseo: A tank. Guido: Yes! Yes, the prize is a tank. Joshua: I already have one. Guido: No, a real one. Joshua: A real tank?
Joshua: I didn't like the train. Guido (to his son): Me, neither. We'll take the bus back, okay? Guido (to the Nazis): Did you hear that? We're taking the bus back!
Bartolomeo: They are looking for someone who speaks German, to translate their instructions. Guido: Me! I'll do it, I'll translate! Bartolomeo: Do you speak German? Guido: No.
Guido (pretending to translate for the guard):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. You’ll lose points for any one of three things: One, If you cry. Two, If you want to see your Mommy. Three, if you're hungry and want a snack! Forget it! Guido (pretending to translate for the guard): We play the part of the real mean guys who yell… Sorry if I’m going so fast, but I’m playing hide and seek. Guido (to Giosue): I told you we’re going to have fun. Joshua (watching his uncle being sent to the gas chamber): Where is Uncle going? Guido: Uh... oh, he's playing on a different team. Goodbye, Uncle! Joshua: Goodbye, Uncle.
Guido: Did you play with the other kids? Joshua: Yes, but they don’t know the rules. They said it isn’t true that the first prize is a tank. They don’t know anything about points. Guido: Did you fall for that? They’re as sly as foxes. They want to beat you. Are you joking? There’s no tank? Don’t you believe them!
Joshua: Daddy, I cannot find any of the other kids, and a lady came telling me to take a shower. Guido: That's a good idea. You go take a shower. Joshua: No! Guido: Go take a shower! Joshua: No!
Joshua (to his father): I don't believe you.
Joshua: They turn us into buttons and soap. Guido: Who told you that? Joshua: An old man was crying. He said they turn us into buttons and soap. Guido: You fell for that? Again? I thought you were a sharp boy – cunning, intelligent. Buttons and soap out of people? That’ll be the day!
Dr. Lessing: I have something important to tell you. Wait for my signal.
Dr. Lessing: Help me, help me. I can’t sleep. What is the answer?
Guido (carrying his son through the camp): You are such a good boy. You sleep now. Dream sweet dreams. Maybe it’s only a dream! We’re dreaming, Joshua. Tomorrow morning, Mommy will wake us up with milk and cookies. Guido: The game is over tomorrow.
Guido: They’re looking all over for you.
Joshua (narrating as an adult): This is my story. This is the sacrifice my father made. This was his gift to me. Joshua: We won! Dora: Yes, we won! Its true. Joshua: We got a thousand points and we won the game! Daddy and me came in first and now we won the real tank! We won! We won!
- 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
- 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?
- 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 in English. In Italian "Qua", has dual translation, it can mean "quack" or "here" so in Italian, the answer is Jews. In Nazi opinion, Jews are fat, ugly, all yellow, cheep, and they are here, the camp)
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.