This is my review of Tale of Tales [DVD].
This is Italian director Matteo Garrone’s English language (to reach a wider audience) interweaving of three fables drawn from the Pentamerone, a 17th-century book of Neapolitan folk stories compiled by the Italian poet Giambattista Basile. He provided fodder for writers like the Brothers Grimm, to give a flavour of the macabre streak running through these bizarre tales.
Apart from the quality of the acting, casting of some remarkable faces, and fabulous costumes, the film is worth watching for the superb scenery from remote parts of Italy. There is no need for Jungle Book CGI with the potential to use striking settings like the Alcantra Gorge in Sicily, or the octagonal Castel del Monte in Puglia.
Despite the fairytale characters and magic mixed with implausibility of many scenes, one can still relate to the human emotions, clearly relevant to us now: the dangers of obsession, when a barren queen will pay any price to get a child, or a bored, self-indulgent king puts his fascination for the giant flea he has created before looking after his daughter. Two sisters desire for youth and beauty gets caught up with a sexually rapacious king’s infatuation with the idea of a woman he has only heard singing, glimpsed from a distance.
Classified as “15”, this visually powerful and entertaining (if sometimes gory or violent) film is available to those of an age to appreciate the deeper ethical points beneath the superficially childish storylines.