In 1997’s LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL, Roberto Benigni found international success by accomplishing the seemingly impossible task of making a moving comedy set during the Holocaust. Nearly a decade later, he similarly uses Dante’s INFERNO as a template to mold a romantic comedy around the early days of the Iraq war. The result is truly unique, managing to find humor amid the horrors of war while mixing in elements of a sweet love story--with Benigni’s trademark manic persona at the center of it all.
Benigni is Attilio, a poet and professor at a university in Rome who has recurring dreams in which he is to be married to a beautiful and mysterious woman. After attending a lecture by his friend, the visiting Iraqi poet Fuad (Jean Reno, THE PROFESSIONAL), Attilio finally sees the woman of his dreams in the form of Vittoria (Benigni’s real-life wife, Nicoletta Braschi), a writer doing research for a book on Fuad. Vittoria resists Attilio’s fawning attempts to seduce her before returning to Iraq with Fuad, where she suffers a head injury that leaves her unconscious in a bomb-damaged hospital. Fuad informs Attilio of her condition, prompting the lovesick poet to join the Red Cross to gain entrance to war-torn Baghdad. Learning that the hospital is severely lacking in supplies, Attilio makes his way through the equivalent of several circles of Hell to find medicine for his dream woman--encountering mine fields, directionally challenged camels, and suspicious American soldiers. Bizarre and bold, THE TIGER AND THE SNOW manages to once again showcase Benigni as one of the world’s most innovative comic talents. Dreamlike, yet still effectively using moments of horror to convey a heartfelt antiwar message, the film also finds plenty of space for his affably hyperactive presence.