Opening 30 Mar 2006
Attilio (Roberto Benigni) is a poet and university professor whose book, The Tiger and the Snow, is symbolic of Attilio’s undying, unrequited love for Vittoria (very beautiful Nicoletta Braschi). This is love “pure as snow and wild as a tiger” to quote Benigni who also directs. Vittoria accompanies Iraqi poet Fuad (Jean Reno) to Baghdad to write a book. Attilio learns that Vittoria is lying wounded in a hospital in this war-torn country and this is where the fairy tale begins. By magic Attilio shows up in Baghdad, procures the correct medicine, spends time in a U.S. prison and saves Vittoria without her ever knowing it. It’s a perfect fantasy as long as you are willing to go along with the incongruities. I’m still not convinced that Vittoria actually existed or that Attilio went anywhere except in his imagination. Any normal person would have stayed home and made do with beautiful Nancy who loves him.
The photography and colors are pleasing; there is a minimum of nice music played at the right times, especially a new song by Tom Waits, who makes a cameo appearance, called You can Never Hold Back Spring. There are humorous scenes, e.g., Attilio loaded down with medical supplies and looking like a suicide bomber. There are parallels to Benigni’s biggest success, Life is Beautiful; for example in both films Benigni’s character refuses to admit reality, creating a perfect world for himself and his loved ones. But a little bit of Benigni goes a long way; he gibbers constantly (in Italian with German subtitles), all the time nervously hopping around, until I thought I would go mad. He is much more effective in smaller roles, like those he made with Jim Jarmusch, e.g., Coffee and Cigarettes, Down by Law, or Night on Earth. Loyal fans or Italians might disagree; see for yourself. (Becky Tan)