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Benigni dreamt of Iraq before making film

‘Tiger and the Snow’ places love story amid chaos of war
/ Source: The Associated Press

Oscar winner Roberto Benigni said on Friday he had no choice but to set his latest film in Iraq.

The irrepressible Italian was in Berlin for the international launch of “The Tiger and the Snow,” which already has been released in his homeland.

“We live with this horror and are surrounded by this horror,” Benigni told Reuters in interview, referring to the Iraq war.

“It’s impossible not to feel the Iraqi war now. The Iraqi war was in my dreams, my nightmares for months and years now, this really incomprehensible war,” he said.

The film, which won mixed reviews among critics at the festival, is a tale of selfless love.

It follows poet Attilio from Rome to Baghdad as he embarks on an increasingly desperate mission to save his love who is wounded as the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 begins.

Like his most famous film “Life is Beautiful,” made in 1997 and set during the Holocaust, the 53-year-old again places a touching love story amid chaos and death.

Scrapes with dangerHis scrapes with danger are often hilarious because of the tension the situation creates, as when he is mistaken for a suicide bomber at a U.S. checkpoint in Iraq and then discovered by nervous U.S. soldiers when his mobile phone goes off.

He also refers to a fly swatter as his weapon of mass destruction, a clear reference to the justification for the war against Saddam Hussein that has since been called into question.

Benigni, who also directed and wrote the film, warned that people’s familiarity with violence in Iraq bred indifference.

“Now there is indifference in the face of horror. We must feel horror in the face of indifference,” he said.

The best way of telling his story, he said, was to explore the theme through feelings from the heart.

“It is a political film indirectly, of course. What is indirect is sometimes more direct, more poignant and goes deeper, because when it’s direct it’s a speech.

“When something enters into your heart it stays there forever,” he said, speaking in English.

Benigni believed he took a commercial risk with “The Tiger and the Snow” because it dealt with events that were so immediate and controversial.

“Choosing a subject like this is very dangerous, and you must be courageous and I am proud about this.

“I felt I had to show the kamikaze who explode themselves there. This is really unbearable and incomprehensible. I had to tell a story about this. I knew it was dangerous to talk about this.”

In fact, the only scene of suicide in the film is not an attack on others, but the private death of a character who had lost touch with his roots.

As in “Life is Beautiful,” which won three Oscars including best actor for Benigni, he stars alongside his real-life wife Nicoletta Braschi in “The Tiger and the Snow.” She is also a producer of the film.