DAY 6. A book I don’t have: Film Criticism Number 1. Finding home.

One book I don’t have is the screenplay to Life is Beautiful by Robert Benini.  I don’t want to speak too negatively about anyone else’s visions.I know that film-maker had his heart in the right place.  But I just thought it was misguided.  The beginning of the film I found sweet and wonderful.  It has moments of pathos, sadness, love, beauty and truth.  Its also very funny, as we watch weddings gone wrong, as I remember it.  It’s been a long time, and I don’t feel like watching it again.  One man attempts to bring some light and humour into a world of persecution and pain.  Where I think the film goes wrong is when Benini- director, actor, writer, star- is placed in a concentration camp himself with his young son.  I think he tries to convince his son that the activities at the camp are all a charade, a game, a play, a comic opera.  That he achieves this on celluloid is a work of wonder.  But how true is it.  I know its meant as a testament to resilience, courage, triumph and the indomitable human spirit.  But still, one wonders how other survivors would really think.  If you have read that other Italian, Primo Levi’s, remarkable late book, The Drowned and the Saved, one would know a few things about the guilt of the survivor.  According to Levi, the greatest horror inflicted upon the victims of the camps was the sheer meaninglessness of so much of it.  For example, they were given work to do which only a truly evil minded man could dream up: to spend all day, in a circle, digging holes, shovelling dirt and shifting it into their neighbours hole.  Something like that.  This is a vision of hell itself.  Endless, pointless, activity where sheer exhaustion, despair, frustration are the result.  I don’t have the words, just the images that man’s words created for me.  Where would Benini find the time or the freedom to play the superhero and save his son?  Who else triumphs in the film?  Who else overcomes?  Had it been written by a survivor, or based upon one of their lives, I would have understood the film a little better.  That’s why I don’t like that movie, at all.  My favorite foreign film that year was a different story, a smaller film, about connection.  It was a movie from Brazil called Central Station which was also about people keeping each other’s spirits, hopes, humanity alive.  The lady is saved by the child’s innocence.  Now that is beautiful.  Connection, finding family, and having to leave it all behind because it’s in the other person’s interests to do so, and to walk away alone with a single souvenir.  Heroes, in my book, are such people.  But she didn’t make herself that.  A little boy helped her find a very special place inside.  She ca not care for him the rest of her days as she would like, but  that little boy will always have a home.  Inside one other human beings heart.  True homelessness is to not live inside another human heart.  Sadly, many of our real homeless people have nothing at all.  Our greatest act of omission as a society is not to place all human beings lives inside our hearts.  That’s why some people don’t have a house, don’t have a bed, can’t take a shower, don’t have food, don’t have water, have so little respect are given so little of the dignity they deserve as shareholders in life itself.  Some people are homeless because we collectively as a society have shut, locked and thrown away the keys. to some of our kin.  So lets find the keys to opening up the doors of the loving, attentive, human  heart.


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