Tag Archives: persecution of the Jews

The Great Dictator: A Nazi Slap to Hitler

In another vein, for a different class, I watched Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator. I gotta tell ya, this is a completely different pace in comparison to the movies I usually watch. I’m all about movies after 1970, the color films, the 100 minute movies. I’m not usually up for the 2 hour black and white snore fests. But this one was at least a bit different. Hey dad, looks like I’m growing up a bit with a little taste of cultured film.

The Great Dictator is the story of a note so great dictator, Adolph Hitler. Cleverly renamed as Adenoid Hynkel, Charlie Chaplin mirrors the rise of Hitler into power and his subsequent actions in his self appointed office. Parallel to this is an image of Chaplin’s Tramp character, the

It’s just too uncanny…

Jewish barber. After having served during World War I, the barber lost his memory and didn’t realize the war had been lost or that Hynkel had been put into power. The persecution of the Jews is underplayed in this movie (it seems as if they’re not treated that poorly), and Chaplin later apologized after finding out about the concentration camps. A depressing issue indeed.

The parts that make this movie funny is only about half of the film. There’s Chaplin’s speech as Hynkel, accurately mimicking Hitler’s wimpy return salute, and the German language and Hitler’s oratory style is dead on. The short English retorts are perfect and simply explain just what Hitler was up to. The bumbling idiots of Hynkel’s cabinet, characterized by Henry Daniell as “Garbage” and Billy Gilbert as “Herring”, strongly insinuate Himmler and

Too legit.

Goebbels (maybe some Goreing thrown in there). The floating globe is amazing and the slapstick is always good. I had no idea how much of a comedic genius Charlie Chaplin was.

The other half of the movie contains the plot. And I found it to be a very uninteresting one. The Jewish barber falls in love with a Jewish washing woman, and the Nazi Gestapo harass her and the barber all day long. After finding the man whose life he saved in the war, the barber befriends Schultz (Reginald Gardiner) and sets about a coup in order to kill Hynkel (if only they had…). Things go wrong, identities are mistaken, and Chaplin (the barber) gives a profound speech at the end, one I felt was directed right at Hitler. Coming out in 1940, this movie, viewed twice by Hitler, was a plea to stop the war. If only it had succeeded.

A lot of the stuff in older movies like this feel the same to me. The long credits at the beginning, the old time music, the higher pitched male voices and long shots, it’s all a constant. I have to admit I was a bit sleepy after this one. But the subject matter and slapstick are what really saved it for me. It was an

A love made in boredom?

extremely clever spoof of Hitler’s Nazi regime and spoke a lot to the things I’ve been learning about in my Holocaust class. I would recommend this one to history buffs and fans of old films, because this one is one of those classics (if you can’t get a hold of an actual copy, check out YouTube for the whole film). Not exactly my style, but I still appreciate it. 7.3 out of 10.

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La Vita e Bella: Life is Beautiful

This movie has been a personal favorite of mine. It’s touching and heartwarming nature, despite the context and parts of the film, have made it a classic since the day it came out (December of 1997 to be exact). Pulling off the feeling of being filmed at the time of the content’s occurrance, this atypical film about the Holocaust and its effect on a recently formed and loving family reshapes just exactly what the years of WWII were. And I would argue, for the purpose of this film at least, that despite all the death and destruction, there was an underlying element of hope.

There are two halves to this movie. Sorta like Hostel. Not one parts boobs and one part blood (not to degrade this film to a horror movie, as good as that horror movie may have been for the genre). This particular movie is one part love and whimsy and one part survival and protection. Directed, written, and starring who I would consider to be the

Greatest family of all time? Yes.

greatest foreign actor of all time, Roberto Benigni, comes a movie that holds within it just what it means to be a decent human being in a time of great struggle. Begnini plays Guido Orefice, a peasantly and pleasantly kind and funny man out to make his way in Italy. He finds love, adventure, and the courage to do for his son what I imagine would be the hardest thing on Earth.

Ahhhh, true love of the silver screen.

Let’s start with the beginning of the movie to keep it light. Guido comes to meet this beautiful girl while travelling with his friend. This brings about one of the greatest lines of all time. “Buongiorno Principessa!” Upon every time that Guido runs into the love of his life Dora (Nicoletta Braschi, his actual wife) he utters this phrase, surprising her and sweeping her off her feet with love. Eventually, through his slapstick-like antics, he goes out of his way to encounter Dora and steal her from the stiff and businesslike man who has been arranged to marry her.

A wonderful duo.

I have to say that I love these opening scenes in this movie. With the first 50 minutes of the film comes some of the best crafted scenes of chance and happenstance that I’ve seen in any similarly styled movie. Convincing an Italian government man to eat what someone else didn’t want, attending the school in which Dora works by impersonating that man, and mesmerising Dora with all the things that happen on their romantic date in the rain is just straight out of the older films of the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. By even evoking this style comes a sort of magic you wouldn’t expect from a movie of the 90’s.

And then comes the turn. Happily married, Guido, Dora, and their small

A father who will do anything for his son.

wonderful child Giosue (Joshua, performed by Giorgio Cantarini) live happily in a fantastic old mansion of Guido’s uncle’s. In the rising regime of the Italians comes Mussolini and his sympathies and alliances with Hitler. What does that mean exactly? That means the persecution of Jews. Guido, a Jew himself is hauled off one day with Giosue and his uncle. Being the person that he is and the fun and laughable father that every child would need at Giosue’s age, Guido comes up with the idea to shield his son from what is actually going on around him in the Italian Axis Nazi camp.

The ultimate sacrifice.

Throughout the second half of the movie, there is still humor. There is still love felt between Dora and Guido and the son they have raised. But there is a looming danger of death around any corner. Giosue must hide at all times from the German guards in order to avoid the gas chambers that eliminate the young and elderly. Guido must perform hard labor in the yards with next to no food, water, or rest. And yet, every day Guido comes to find some way to describe their experience in this concentration camp as a game. A game, that, if won, will bring the winner a tank. Through every loving action of his father, Giosue comes to realize, as an adult we never actually see, that his father made the ultimate sacrifice in order to save him and his mother.

This is wonderful to know. Life truly is beautiful.

With a heartbreakingly sad scene towards the end, you still see Guido shining until the very end. Guido and Giosue are never in pain, never upset, never crying or despairing over their situation. Despite what every viewer of this movie knows about the Holocaust and what could happen to any of these characters, you have this hope for them that they will make it out. And, if not, you realize just how amazing of a dad that Guido truly is. If I had to give him a level of Dad Points for this film, he would set the high for it. Let’s see:

In the course of this film he:

1. Finds love and creates a child.

2. Cares for that child so deeply that he will do anything in order to make his son’s life better and despair free.

3. Sacrifices his life in order to save his son’s and his wife’s.

4. His son remembers the sacrifice his father gave and is forever indebted to him.

5. Guido as a dad was just to legit to quit.

You bring together all of these elements and you have a Dad that gives a million and one percent. For sure. And, told in one of the most amazingly

Buongiorno Principessa!

heartfelt and romantic ways possible for any film of this genre, and you have made a classic ahead of its time. I am in love with this film. Its title truly does justice to what the aim of this film was. Life is Beautiful. So appreciate it while you have it and know that with the love and life you put into it, great things can come of it. 10 out of 10.