All of the film club were first timers for this film and, to paraphrase Dong, it slipped under our defences.
A terrific piece of dialogue as Guido Orefice (Benigni) explains a sign that his small son has seen in a shop window:
Giosue (Guido's son): "No Jews or Dogs Allowed." Why do all the shops say, "No Jews Allowed"?
Guido (Benigni): Oh, that. "Not Allowed" signs are the latest trend! The other day, I was in a shop with my friend the kangaroo, but their sign said, "No Kangaroos Allowed," and I said to my friend, "Well, what can I do? They don't allow kangaroos."
Giosue: "Why doesn't our shop have a "Not Allowed" sign?
Guido: Well, tomorrow, we'll put one up. We won't let in anything we don't like. What don't you like?
Guido: Good. I don't like Visigoths. Tomorrow, we'll get sign: "No Spiders or Visigoths Allowed."
The film becomes a much darker and more sinister beast almost unexpectedly. Just like the sudden knock on the door, Guido and Giosue are taken and transported to a concentration camp with little or no warning. Guido has to use the same comedic talents that he used to woo his wife in the early part of the film to keep his son alive in the dreadful conditions of forced labour and the final solution. The same talents are on show, the same prat-falls keep happening, but it's very very hard to laugh now.
At the film's end all of us had at least a couple of tears in our eyes; it is an extremely affecting story and it's very well told on a human scale.
Please watch this film, please invite friends around to watch it with you. It's vital that we never forget. It's vital that we say "never again". It's wonderful to be able to laugh in the face of evil. Life is indeed Beautiful.