Before the times of War World II, due to large resentment and despair within the German community, Adolf Hitler rose power. As his influence and power began to grow and spread to a national level, he enacted his final solution of the complete extermination of the Jews. The Holocaust as it was referred to, grinded itself into the world’s memories as one of the most atrocious events in mankind’s history. Very few pieces of work have come close to depicting the events that occurred during this time; however writers such as Elie Wiesel and Roberto Beninin have helped create a large scale picture of these dark times. With these works readers are able to come closer to facts and understandings of human nature. Wiesel’s own account, Night (1956) reveals much about life leading up to Auschwitz and life within the walls as well. Inside the memoir, we learn of Eliezer and his own father’s struggles with sanity and survival within Auschwitz. Likewise Beninin’s movie, Life is beautiful; revolve around Guido and his son, Giosué coming to the realization of the inhumane practices of the Nazi party. Although the differences number many between Night and Life is Beautiful, at the very core they show the darkness of the human heart during the holocaust.
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The most prominent difference between the mediums is the different type of tone used throughout the works. Night provides a feeling of darkness and emptiness, displaying the actions of the ones in fear and despair. These actions are shown in the form of the putrid and selfish side of humans, whom are capable of finding justification within anything. A clear example of this is shown when the farmers throw food inside the Nazi death march carriages, in order to get a good show of them murder each other over the food. Right after another example is shown when a son kills his own father for a piece of bread. The novel also displays a stripping of not only materialistic possessions, feelings as well. This is further developed when you see the actions that occur during the time of Rocha Shana and Yom Kippur, which is especially prominent within Eliezers thoughts. Overall the tone of night is best described as dark and empty. Unlike Night however, Life is beautiful takes on a much more loving and caring feeling throughout. The movie takes on an example of human kindness in the worst situations much to the contrary of Night. Examples of this can be shown between Guido and his own son throughout the time spent in the concentration camps. Despite Guido’s own starvation, he provides more food for his son Giosué whenever he is hungry as well as going so far as to convince him that this whole entire camp is just a game.
Another notable difference within the book is how the father and son interact with each other. Although some may argue that this difference comes from the difference of age between the sons, the movie purposefully makes the son more ignorant and naive. Because of the ignorance of the child in the film, the comparison of the novel and movie is mainly between the son’s of the novel and the fathers of the film. Overall it is still best described that the novel displays a stronger instinct of survival as well as that relationships aren’t as closely regarded. With the movie, on the other hand as a direct opposite of the novel in that comparison. A prime example is realized when Rabbi Eliahu’s own son decides to abandon him in fears that he will only be extra dead weight which is revealed in the quote, “he had seen him, and he continued to run in front, letting the distance between them become greater”. (91) In contrast in the movie Guido, who refuses to resign himself to the tasks the Nazi’s give him in turn, invents a game for his son with one thousand points. The game is quite simple in the fact that as long as Giosué acts as a good child he will gain points and that if he wins he will gain ownership of a tank. In the case of Eliezer in Night a slight exception to the rule can be seen in that while the lust for survival can be constantly seen, Eliezer is continuously exemplified as someone whom is always conflicted with himself. The conflicts can be fully signified when he thinks, “Oh God, Master of the Universe, give me the strength never to do what Rabbi Eliahu’s son did.”(91)
The major similarity between the mediums is that they are both pieces that strongly illustrate Nazi terrorism in Europe at the time. In Night the terrorism is shown directly throughout the whole book; in that excluding the first chapter, the memoir never lets your mind off the topic. Even so the memoir has parts are truly able to bring out emotions, for example when Eliezer and his father are marching through Auschwitz, they can see the burning corpses of people. The direct quote that tries to aid the reader in visualizing this is, ” In front of us, those flames. In the air, the smell of burning flesh. It must have been around midnight. We had arrived. In Birkenau.” (28) This brings out a deep thought from people, with them unable to picture it because of the feelings it brings to mind. The film in distinction portrays Nazi terrorism in a less direct way, however, the message is still spread across in subtle moments. An example of this is when Guido runs around the camp in search of a way to escape, eventually getting himself caught up in front of desecrated corpses. Another example from the film to support the statement is that when you notice Guido doing work on the camp, you come to the realization his life would inevitably be put to an end if he were to slow down, although the film makes it jokingly funny.
Another similarity between the mediums is that although Nazi terrorism was extreme and horrendous to such an extent, the characters in both works don’t express a sense of deep hatred towards the Nazi’s. They both demonstrate characters that are more desperate for survival of their own hide and their family, rather than characters with a strong sense of resentment and vengeance. However it should be noted that in Night resentment can be easily seen, however it is not directly pointed at the Nazi’s, rather at god himself. In the prologue of Night, where Eliezer gives a brief summary of his reasoning’s for writing the memoir, Eliezer himself expresses how he was completely stripped of his faith and reasoning, and that his mind was completely centered on survival. The direct translation from the Yiddish version that is used states,” In the beginning there was faith, which is childish trust; trust, which is vain; and illusion, which is dangerous. We believed in God, trusted in man, and lived with the illusion that everyone one of us had been entrusted with a sacred spark from the Shekhinah’s flame; that every one of us carries in his eyes and in his soul a reflection of God’s image. That was the source if not the cause of all our ordeals.”(x-xi) In comparison Life is Beautiful does the same in which Guido is always on the lookout of Giosué, rather than expressing his hatred for the Nazi party. Instead he feels a need to make a joke of himself whenever pressed against the Nazi’s in order to let his son get a good laugh and remain unfazed by the whole entire situation. Chief examples of this are when Guido gets his son into the party so he is able to receive good food and when he interprets the words of the German officer wrongly for Giosué.
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The differences number many between Night and Life is beautiful, however at the very core they are both mediums with prime examples of the darkness of the human heart with the era. The direct opposite in the expression of tones and father son relationships between the two pieces are two major concepts within the novel, but on the greater scale picture the pieces are able to strongly resemble each other on the basis of the horrors of Nazi terrorism, and the loss of hatred towards them. In Night however, they take a even further step to go as far as to condemn god for his treatment.
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