Your Friends and Neighbors is not a film to see with your partner. It is bleak and cynical, and if that is the nature of relationships in the future, then God help us all. In many ways it's not unlike Peter Gill's play, Certain Young Men at the Almeida; though I liked this very much. It's a curious piece, about five gay male couples and the conversations within their relationships. I wasn't looking forward to seeing it at as several of my gay friends had been and not liked it at all: maybe it was a little bit too true-to-life for them. But like Your Friends and Neighbors, it doesn't seem to be set within any political context. It's a bit depressing if we're only worried about who we're sleeping with - it's so introspective and full of self-absorption.
But Life is Beautiful is the opposite. I understand the controversy surrounding it, but I thought it was a fairy story. I don't believe Benigni meant it naturalistically. I mean, his wife is wearing make-up in the concentration camp, and it's very obvious make-up. I thought the film was an uplifting metaphor, a fairy story which was very funny. It's clever, abstract and wild. He's not mocking the Holocaust in any way: he's just saying, "Look, we can overcome it." Unlike the relationship traumas of Your Friends and Neighbors and Certain Young Men, Begnini is dealing with something slightly worse and saying, "We're OK".
Frances Barber is taking part in NT2000 at the National Theatre.