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Life is Beautiful Summary and Analysis

by Roberto Benigni

Part III

A boat glides across a stage. We are at an Offenbach opera, watching a performance with Dora and Amico. Guido in the audience, too, staring straight at Dora, who is in a box. The woman next to him mistakenly thinks that he is staring at her, but Guido "explains" that he can hear only out of one ear. He begins using the Schopenhauer Method: "Look at me, princess ... look at me, look at me." She finally does, but she seems to think that he is on a date with the woman next to him.

After the show, Dora asks Amico if they can get chocolate ice cream. They cannot, he says; they have to be at dinner at the Prefect's at eight. Dora is clearly unhappy about missing the ice cream. Oreste is also at the opera, and Guido once again tricks him, exchanging their hats and running off.

Outside it is raining, so Dora asks Amico to bring the car to her. He says he will pull up outside and toot the horn. Guido overhears this and begs Ferruccio for his car key. A car pulls up, a horn honks, and Dora runs in. She expresses annoyance that no one came to get her with an umbrella. She begins hiccupping (it seems she always hiccups when she is nervous, and she is unhappy about going to the Prefect's). Suddenly, she turns and sees that it is not Amico but Guido who is driving. She screams but quickly calms down and smiles. "Will you leave me alone?" asks Guido. "You've really got a crush on me."

Suddenly the car begins to shake, the roof pops off, and the engine cuts out. Guido grabs a red pillow attached to a stick that happens to be in the backseat of the antique car and gives it to Dora to use as an umbrella. He then pulls out a roll of red cloth and throws it down the steps towards the piazza so that she will not have to get her feet wet. Dora realizes that her dress is ripped and, as Guido says, her "behind is blowing in the wind."

Minutes later, they walk through the piazza, Dora carrying the pillow so that it covers her rear. It is no longer raining. Dora tells Guido that one only needs the right key to open her heart. Guido suddenly says that he will ask the Virgin Mary to send him the key from heaven. He calls out, "Maria! The key!" A key comes flying down, and Guido catches it. "Is this it?" he asks Dora, who can only stare at him in astonishment.

They approach the theater, and Dora says she has to go. Guido asks, "What about the chocolate ice cream?" but Dora says not to bother the Virgin Mary about ice cream. Guido notices the doctor standing a few feet away and calls out, "Mary! How long before we can have some ice cream?" The doctor strides up to them and says simply, "Seven seconds," leaving Dora astounded once again.

Guido walks her home. Dora apparently lives in a beautiful mansion. Guido tells her that he wants to make love to her over and over again for the rest of his life, but that he would never actually tell her such a thing. Dora tells him that he better run home (he is all wet), but suddenly Guido notices Oreste approaching on a bicycle. "It's my hat that bothers me," he says. "I need a dry hat, but where can I find one?" Dora, joking, calls out to the Virgin Mary to bring her friend a dry hat. At that, Oreste stops in front of them, takes the hat on Guido's head and plops the old one down on him, and bikes off. "Farewell," says Guido, as he dances away down the street.

Analysis

This section of the film focuses on the burgeoning love between Guido and Dora. Guido has a truly unique view of romance: he approaches it almost like a game having the object of winning Dora's affection. He employs many of his skills (both real and imagined)-quick thinking, Schopenhauer's Method, wit, and humor-in his seduction of Dora, and he ultimately emerges victorious. Even though Dora is engaged to a wealthy man and moves in decidedly different social circles than Guido, she cannot help but be enraptured by his joyful approach to life and the magic that seems to follow him wherever he goes.

Very few of the characters in Life is Beautiful are stereotypes; most are layered, deeply complex personalities, with a variety of political beliefs and attitudes towards life. Even in this context, Dora is particularly interesting. She is the romantic heroine and the object of Guido's adoration, but she also has some faults. She seems to be willing in her relationship with a man whom she clearly does not love, and she comes across as somewhat petulant and bratty, at least to Amico. "No!" she yells, when told that she and Amico have been invited to the Prefect's house for dinner. Quickly, however, a different side of Dora emerges when she is around Guido: her eyes light up, and she opens herself to the magical world that he shows her. She also abandons her somewhat stuffy persona. Although she was annoyed with Amico for failing to retrieve her with an umbrella, she soon strolls through the piazza with Guido holding a cushion over her rear to cover the hole in her dress.

Dora and Guido are in the honeymoon of infatuation. Dora seems to wholly accept Guido's failings. As they pull away from the opera, he confesses that he does not know how to drive, and within minutes the car begins to smoke and rattle-and they come to a crashing halt with the roof popped open, exposing them to the downpour. Nevertheless, Dora's fascination with this bizarre man is such that she does not become angry, even though we can imagine the ferocity of her rage had a similar situation occurred with Amico.

Guido approaches this glitch as he does most everything in life: with humor and a determination to find the magic in any situation. One of the most beautiful moments in the film occurs when Guido stops Dora from walking down a long flight of steps, fearing that she will get her feet wet; he unrolls a long bolt of cloth, creating a luxurious red carpet for them to step on as they descend into the piazza.

At the end of this section, even Dora puts her faith in the remarkable pattern that seems to occur whenever Guido is around, calling out to the Virgin Mary to bring her friend a dry hat. Of course, Guido has predicted that Oreste would exchange Guido's hat for his own and has seeded the situation so that the coincidence would occur. Dora's mouth drops open in shock, but she no longer seems to question why such things happen to Guido. It is more than coincidence, luck, and careful planning in such situations; they require Guido's attitude towards the world around him and his willingness to believe that extraordinary things can happen.

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