La Vita È Bella (Life is Beautiful)

Kurumi S. is currently a junior at SYA Italy and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Spence School in New York.

Gathering together as a community, our grade sat in neat lines facing towards the grand screen displayed at the front of the familiar salone that somehow takes my breath away every time I gaze above at the ceiling. It is decorated with intricate frescos from hundred of years ago, with faded paintings giving off a historical aura.

During this particular Wednesday fieldwork activity, we stayed at school to watch the three-time Oscar-winning film, La Vita È Bella, about a Jewish-Italian bookstore owner played by Roberto Benigni, who embarks on a comical, tragic, and inspiring journey of romance, fatherhood, and war. We watched the movie all in Italian without any subtitles, acting as a true test of our comprehension of the language; clearly we had all passed as we laughed, gasped and cried along to the scenes, developing an invisible yet obviously present community bond, as we all swayed along to the sympathies of the film. By the end of the movie, my tears had formed into unconscious stream of joy, sadness, and appreciation for Italian history and culture. This film, as a piece of artwork, similar to the frescos in the salone, conveyed the intense influence of history into the country’s culture, as it spread awareness concerning the mindset of Italians based on what they had gone through and how they felt about such events.

It is one thing to watch and see such beautiful pieces of art, but to make one is a whole new story. For the next Wednesday fieldwork, we took a trip to the cute, chic Italian town, Arezzo, where the movie was filmed. Seeing the familiar piazze and strade in real life gave a whole new perspective on the film. Our task for the day was to memorize lines from a scene in the movie and recreate it, so that we could get a glimpse into the life of an Italian from the late 1930s to the mid-1940s. The said activity did not just help us learn and assess our Italian, but it revealed a deeper understanding of Italian history and culture. That is something you simply cannot experience anywhere else, and that is what makes the SYA life truly beautiful.

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