Synopsis by Eleanor Mannikka
In this political drama, the critically acclaimed Russian director Grigori Chukhrai -- who also wrote the script -- focuses on the nature of political persecution through his hero Antonio (Giancarlo Giannini), a taxi driver in the capital of a dictatorship. Running alongside the political theme is a love story between Antonio and María, a waitress in a local café. Antonio was booted out of the military for refusing to fire on a boat carrying women and children during the Angola civil war. His main objective now is to stay aloof and uninvolved -- until he meets María. She has him take a man to the airport one day, and Antonio soon realizes that this fellow is a revolutionary working to oust the dictator. The ride he gave the man is the excuse the Secret Police need to pick up Antonio, and they put him in prison where they abuse him, trying to find out about his passenger. But he truly does not know anything, and he would never implicate María. The other prisoners at first turn against him but change their attitude when they discover he plans an escape, and soon everyone is about to make a break for freedom. Chukhrai's first film, The Forty-First won a special prize at Cannes in 1957, Ballad of a Soldier was also a 1960 winner at Cannes, and Clear Skies a winner in the 1961 Venice competition. Although La Vita è Bella indirectly involves the war themes of these preceding movies, it is not really in their same category.
arrest, coercion, criminal, espionage, false-accusation, politician, revolution, torture, treason