Assess the relationship between father and son in the film Life Is Beautiful and Night by Elie Wiesel.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Benigni's film depicts a father who feels confident that he is in control of the world around him.  The father understands completely that he needs to be strong for his son and thus develops the "game approach" to the death camp.  Essentially, the father never wavers in his commitment to his son and his ability to be the shelter in the storm for his child. This is vastly different than the reality that governs  Eliezer's father.  He recognizes, almost instantly in his struggle, that he is not in control.  There is little he can do to maintain his control of the world for his son.  Interestingly enough, in Benigni's work there is a strict interpretation of how father and son interact with one another, whereas the latter follows the lead of the former.  In Wiesel's work, this is inverted.  The son becomes more of the "father" than the father.  The ending of the work is the most telling of this as Eliezer has to tend to his father, wishing his father would be quiet as he is being beaten and remaining silent while his father's last words are to call out to a son.  In this, there is a different understanding of the relationship between father and son in the film as opposed to Wiesel's work.

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Both stories are about a father and son trying to survive in a concentration camp. The most significant difference between the situations is the ages of the sons. Elie was nearly grown and understood what was happening around him. Giosuè was much younger and did not understand.

Both fathers strove to protect their sons from the horror they experienced, but they did so in different ways. Elie’s father taught him how to survive and, in that way, protected his life. Giosuè’s father protected the boy's still-developing mind by shielding him from understanding what was happening. That way his mind would not be warped by seeing the horror. In effect, he did not see it at all.

In a way, Night is the story of a father's struggle for his son's physical survival, while Life is Beautiful is the story of a father's struggle for his son's internal survival.

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