Life is blending. A reading of Roberto Benigni's film
The considerable increase of critical studies on Cognitive Poetics is freeing it from the allegation of just offering a new and seductive terminology, but is instead earning the discipline dignity through the application of scientific methodology.
My article, moved by the interest around the phenomenon of blending, proposes a reading of La vita è bella by R. Benigni exactly from this point of view. The movie was harshly criticized, both for a lack of technical skills and for telling a story of death and extermination through a comical perspective. Through the application of blending and other tools of classical critical analysis, my goal will be to demonstrate how the structure of the film is composed of a double identity: reality and fantasy, comic and tragic, which saves it from becoming melodramatic and pathetic by sustaining the empathy from the audience.
My analysis underlines that indeed the entire movie is constructed on a continuous blending and also marks a realization of modalities, proving through a well-known and deeply appreciated work that Cognitive Sciences are able to offer efficient tools of analysis that validate previous critical intuitions and also highlight parts of the work remaining in the shadows and bounded to an aesthetic valuation.
Agamben, Giorgio, Homo sacer. Il potere sovrano e la nuda vita, Torino, Einaudi, 2005.
Agamben, Giorgio, Quel che resta di Auschwitz. L’archivio e il testimone, Torino, Boringhieri, 1998.
Benigni, Roberto, Cerami, Vincenzo, La vita è bella, Torino, Einaudi, 1998.
Bergson, Henri, Materia e memoria, Ed. Adriano Pessina, Bari, Laterza, 2004.
Bergson, Henri, Il riso. Saggio sul significato del comico, Bari, Laterza, 1994.
Boezio, Sara, “La poetica cognitiva tra scienze cognitive e critica letteraria: presupposti e convergenze”, Italianistica, 3 (2011):19-46.
Bosworth, Richard J. B., “Life is beautiful”, interview The Europeans, Abc Radio National, 25 July 1999.
Bruck, Edith, “L’inverosimile favola del lager di Benigni”, L’Unità, (18 Gennaio 1998): 1.
Casadei, Alberto, Poetiche della creatività, Letteratura e scienze della mente, Milano, Mondadori, 2011.
Cavaglion, Alberto, Ebrei senza saperlo, Napoli, L’ancora, 2002.
Deleuze, Gilles, L’immagine – movimento, Milano, Ubulibri, 2010.
Fauconnier, Gilles, Turner, Mark, The Way We Think: Conceptual Blending and the Mind’s Hidden Complexities, New York, Basic Books, 2002.
Fava, Claudio, Viganò Aldo, “Che errore la regia”, Rivista del cinematografo, 12 (1997): 14-15!
Ferruta, Anna, “Sopravvivere. Le attività espressive nelle istituzioni di cura”, Teoria e tecnica della clinica in comunità terapeutica, 5, 27, (2005): 85-98.
Forgacs, David, Rome open city, London, British film institute, 2000!
Gibbs, Raymond, The Poetics of Mind: Figurative Thought, Language and Understanding, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1994.
Gilman, Sander, “Is life beautiful? Can the Shoah be funny? Some thoughts on recent and older films”, Critical Inquiry, 26 (2000): 279-308.
Hogan, Patrick, Cognitive Science, Literature, and the Arts, A guide for Humanists, London, Routledge, 2003.
Lakoff, George, Johnson, Mark, Metafora e vita quotidiana, Ed. Patrizia Violi, Milano, Bompiani, 2007.
Lakoff, George – Johnson, Mark, Philosophy in the Flesh: the Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought, New York, Basic Books, 1999.
Loewenthal, Elena, Contro il giorno della memoria, Torino, ADD editore, 2014.
Manne, Robert, “Life is not so beautiful”, The age, (12 Feb. 1999): 13.
Marcus, Millicent, After Fellini, National Cinema in the Postmodern Age, Baltimore and London, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002.
Morandini, Morandino, “Il bello di Benigni”, Cineforum, 37 (1997): 3-5.
Palmer, Alan, Social Minds in the Novel, Columbus, The Ohio State University Press, 2010.
Rossi, Federico, “La poetica cognitiva: pro e contro”, Italianistica, 3 (2011): 27-60.
Ryan, Marie Laure, Possible Worlds, Artificial Intelligence, and Narrative Theory, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1991.
Russo Bullaro, Grace (ed.), Beyond life is beautiful, Comedy and Tragedy in the Cinema of Roberto Benigni, Leicester (UK), Troubador Pubishing Ltd, 2005.
Semino, Elena, “Blending and characters’ mental functioning in Virginia Wollf’s Lappin and Lapinova”, Language and Literature, 15, 1(2006): 55-72.
Sessi, Frediano, Auschwitz 1940-1945, Milano, Bur, 1999.
Stockwell, Peter, Cognitive Poetics, an introduction, London, Routledge, 2002.
Tucan, Gabriela, “Cognitive Poetics: Blending Narrative Mental Spaces. Self-Construal and Identity in Short Literary Fiction”, Enthymema, VIII 2013, 38-55, http://riviste.unimi.it/index.php/enthymema, online (ultimo accesso 16/02/2014).
Turner, Mark, The Literary Minds, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1996.
Viano, Maurizio, “Life is beautiful: Reception, Allegory, and Holocaust Laughter”, Annuali d’Italianistica, 17 (1999): 155-171.
Vogelmann, Daniel, “Life is beautiful”, Il Tirreno, (18 Dic. 1997): 1.
You are free to copy, distribute and transmit the work, and to adapt the work. You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).