Roberto Benigni returned to the big screen in 2005, 8 years after the success of “La Vita è bella”, with a new comedy set in dramatic circumstances – “La Tigre e la neve” - a love story during the Iraq War in 2003.
Written and directed by Benigni, he plays the main character, a poet and university professor named Attilio de Giovanni, together with the same Nicoletta Braschi who was his "principessa" in “La vita è bella”.
For those who have seen “La vita bella”, I’d say that this second film is somewhat of a sequel to his first. Somewhat. It's a companion-movie. The characters are different, the circumstances and the frame of the story are different, but the two protagonists - Attilio and Vittoria - have the same origins, and similar profiles. Attilio is funny, lanky, with ragged hair, lively and energetic, inventive, forgetful, incredibly bold and irremediably in love. Vittoria is more reserved, like a fortress that doesn’t wish to be conquered.
La tigre e la neve is more of a fantasy than a story anchored in reality. The poet will overcome the impossible in order to reach his beloved woman, hurt in Iraq during the war, and save her life. La tigre e la neve is not a movie about war, nor is it anti-war, as some had expected. The film is simply an ode to love. Benigni explores different subjects, even the profound ones, in his characteristic way. Not by chance, the film's hero is a poet with his head in the clouds, so love is portrayed poetically, in idealistic terms. The script itself is sprinkled with verses from the works of some of the greatest poets of the world.
I think the background story - the war in Iraq and the efforts to save Vittoria's life - is only used by Benigni as a framing device for his many tricks, some of them quite successful (you will definitely laugh). In one of the scenes, Attilio is riding a motorcycle while carrying a lot of medicine for Vittoria and gets stopped by the American soldiers, who are scared that he is a terrorist. In another scene, the poet tries to convince a camel to go in the right direction. The scenes from the Baghdad hospital, where Attilio fidgets around the bed while Vittoria lies unconscious, are also full of humor.
Perhaps some things should have been explained in more detail or left out… for example the suicide of the Iraqi poet Fuad (friend of Attilio and Vittoria), played by Jean Reno.
La tigre e la neve is not Benigni's best film (it is the last film he directed), nor the greatest achievement of Italian cinema, but it is a successful romantic comedy, something different from the usual Hollywood plots. A fairytale about life and death, love and war, happiness and sadness, La tigre e la neve is worth watching.
Referring to the context in which the story is plotted - the war - La tigre e la neve has a powerful message for everyone: war transforms life into a real tragedy, but love makes it worthwhile. When people let love blossom, life becomes a fairy tale.