Defend the sometimes-humorous portrayal in Life is Beautiful.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that the humor employed in Benigni's work is one that helps to accentuate the horror of the Holocaust.  The humor that Benigni employs is one that enables us to view the Holocaust as a child would, like Guido's son would.  In a sense, the viewer is as confused as the child about the reality of the Holocaust.  How could such a condition happen?  Why would human beings do such a thing to another?  What does one do in the death camps and how does one live?  These are questions to which there can be no exact and direct answer.  Rather, we end up having to capitulate to Guido's game and his humor because it makes sense in a world where there is no sense to be made.  Rather than embrace the reality of hopelessness and loss for a child, Guido constructs a game of survival, using humor to defray the natural pangs of fear and insecurity that would result in the condition intrinsic to the death camp.  The humor is not derived to make light of the Holocaust.  Rather, it is used to accentuate the horror within it.  Through this, I believe that the use of humor is relevant and profound in the film.