The ‘Mighty’ Pen’s Journey From A Sword To A Swiss Knife

Saturday, October 25, 2008

“Jacob the Liar” and “Life is Beautiful” - The undying spirit of the Holocaust era!

60 years ago the Nazis invaded the world. The injustice and cruelty they inflicted upon the Jews is for all to know. The genocide of approximately six million European Jews during World War II, was just a chapter in History for me back in school. A lesson for me to cram and pass the most obnoxious subject ever. Getting rid of people by burning them in gas chambers was gruesome even then, but it never hit me that hard. Unperturbed by the extremity, I looked at it as one of those many acts of the past and present where man is his own biggest enemy. Thus I moved on just fine with the word “Holocaust”, a word that needed to be underlined to catch the examiner’s attention.

This until I stumbled upon two masterpieces “Life is Beautiful” and “Jacob the Liar”. The common thread among these two movies is obviously much more than the horrifying concentration camps. It is the human spirit that steals the show and moves even a supposedly “strong hearted” person like me close to tears.

The protagonist played by Robin Williams in Jacob the Liar finds himself midst a controversy after he tells a frustrated friend to hold on as the Red Army is on its way to rescue them all. He overhears this piece of news on the radio after he is caught outside after the curfew is imposed and taken to the German army’s barracks. So moved by the news, this friend goes and spreads the word that Jacob (Robin Williams) has a radio, thus making him the single point source of information of what lies in store for them. He now constantly lives a life on the edge because he will be slaughtered to death by the Germans if they suspect a radio with anyone apart from them. Jacob plays along with the lie after he discovers that the number of suicide’s in the ghetto are going down as hope engulfs many.

The lies galore in “Life is Beautiful” too where Guido Orefice (played by Roberto Benigni) tells his son that the concentration camp is a game. Where the person who gains 1000 points wins a tank and one loses points when one complains or sulks. Guido keeps his son to play along by reminding him that they are leading and the tank will be there’s any moment now.

Thus in both these movies a plain simple lie is what makes someone else push a little harder for existence in the unbearable conditions. To hold on as a better, brighter future awaits them. For some more time and then everything would be just like it was before the Nazis swept their lives with dread. Soon their lies catch up with Jacob and Guido and are killed by the Nazi’s. From the debris of these free spirited souls is born a tomorrow for someone else. Lies that took their own life but provided buoyancy to others to swim through tough waters and sail to the shore!