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Pinocchio: A Rascal’s Epic Journey Brought To Life

Written by Nena Morena

Who, as a kid, has not seen the Disney version of the story of Pinocchio? A pinewood puppet who desperately wants to become a real boy? Those who, like me, had the privilege to read the original tale by Italian writer Carlo Collodi might have had quite a shock when they found out how different the two stories actually are. Both tales try to teach kids important moral lessons and warn them about the consequences of bad behavior. However, the Disney adaptation changed many things from the original story. With its subtle metaphors about the human condition, the book is a much darker and crude version of life that shows the consequences of making the wrong choices. The movie “Pinocchio”, produced and directed by Matteo Garrone, chose to remain faithful to the original tale and takes the audience on a journey to the past to discover the deepest of human needs.

Tuscany, 1883. An impoverished Italian carpenter named Geppetto decides to carve himself a wooden puppet and use it as a marionette. His plan is to make a living by working as a puppeteer around the country. His friend Mastro Ciliegia, another carpenter, gives him an enchanted piece of wood as a gift. Geppetto, oblivious to the magical nature of the wood, begins to carve the puppet little by little. As soon as the puppet starts talking, Geppetto calls him Pinocchio and keeps him as his son. Geppetto is ecstatic to finally be a dad. Unfortunately, Pinocchio turns out to be a disobedient and selfish boy whose only desire is to enjoy himself without considering his father’s sacrifices. Soon, his troublesome behavior leads him on a dangerous odyssey in the company of dubious and odd characters who will try to impede his way back to Geppetto.

Contrary to the Disney version, the movie “Pinocchio” does not follow a traditional narrative but is rather a series of short adventures set in different places with the involvement of different characters. The complexity of Garrone’s work is admirable. The number of fancy costumes used for all the characters, the constant changing of scenarios, and the faithfulness to the novel show how seriously the director took this story and how far he went to create Pinocchio’s epic journey. Overall, the movie’s pace did not suffer from the elaborate plot, although some scenes seemed a little slow; this is a feature of Italian film-making that resembles classic theatre.

The acting in the movie is done more in the style of classical theatre than that of modern movies, but I think that it made the movie authentic and more like the original tale. As a big fan of comedian and producer Roberto Benigni, I can’t not start with him. Despite his relatively short screen time, Roberto Benigni does an amazing job portraying the poor and good-hearted Geppetto. Through his facial expressions, he is able to convey all the different emotions that his character feels throughout the movie, emotions that, unfortunately, his voice cannot instill as effectively since it is dubbed in English. Federico Lelapi also does a good job interpreting the character of Pinocchio. This was not his first appearance on the big screen; however, this was his first movie as the main protagonist. His acting did not exceed expectations, but it was quite promising, especially for an 8-year-old boy with the task of being a marionette. I also must give him some credit for wearing prosthetic makeup for the entire movie, which took 3 hours each day to apply. Other minor but essential characters were Marine Vacth as the Fairy Lady, Massimo Ceccherini and Rocco Pappaleo as the Fox and the Cat, and Gigi Proietti as Mangiafuoco. Each of these actors gave a great and convincing performance. I was especially surprised by the Marine Vacth, who was able to create a mysterious and surreal atmosphere around her character. Just like in the books, all the other characters in the story were primarily animals. However, the director Matteo Garrone decided to rely mostly on prosthetic makeup on the actors and high-quality costumes instead of CGI. The results are surprisingly pleasant. My only disappointment is the Talking Cricket which I thought was too grotesque and weird looking, two adjectives very different from the character’s personality.

Written in 1883, the book “Pinocchio” is considered one of the greatest pieces of children’s literature and the second-most translated work after the Bible. Its original story is not what most people know from their childhood, and whoever compares it to the Disney version makes a great mistake, in my opinion. Most European stories written in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were often based on older folk tales passed down from generation to generation. Even when they were completely

new such as Pinocchio, these stories reflected the culture and lifestyle of the time, two elements that must be considered when judging a story. The darkness and complexity of these tales often came from their primary focus of telling different aspects of human existence, which is often complicated and dangerous. During an interview, Garrone said, “Collodi wanted to show kids how dangerous and cruel the world around them could be. It was a warning to them to be careful and follow the advice of people that love you. The dark side is connected to this aspect — the consequence of Pinocchio’s bad decisions.” In my opinion, the trailer does a great job of preparing the audience for the general atmosphere of the movie and showing what the real story of Pinocchio is about. Garrone’s adaptation blends realism and fantasy with an effort to bring back the grim atmosphere and satirical tone of the original novel. The realistic representations of some of the characters’ dark personalities and crimes can get under your skin, making this movie mainly for adults. The enchanting and surreal mood of each scene combined with the beautiful Italian scenery and great acting definitely captivate the spectators from the beginning to the end. I realize that The acting is much more theatrical compared to what most people here in the United States are used to, but I think this was done very well and brings levity to balance the movies darker themes. The music and the costumes were both very remarkable and essential in turning this classic into a cinematographic gem. I would rate this movie as Above Average on the Mike’s After Action Reviews five-tired scale (Bad, Below Average, Average, Above Average, Excellent), and I highly recommend it. Unfortunately, the slow pace of some of the scenes and the lack of emotion that comes from the voice dubbing slightly penalizes the movies rating.

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