“I’ve been thinking to make with my hands, by myself, a wooden puppet.”
Dir. Matteo Garrone
Runtime: 125 minutes
Starring: Federico Ielapi, Roberto Benigni, Rocco Papaleo
You know the story of Pinocchio, right? The puppet that came to life and wanted to be a real boy, yeah? Well strap yourselves in because this 2019 version is a little darker than you might remember. It stars a nine-year-old Federico Ielapi as the magical marionette that is brought to life, and (Academy Award Winning) Roberto Benignio as his father Geppetto.
This is not a Disney film, it is not in English, it is a live action version of the story. Three things which might put people off all together from watching this but that should not be the case. This might not be the Pinocchio that Disney brought audiences in 1940 (and are remaking as a 2021 live-action version too) which a lot of people have grown up with, but it is an addictive film which might just draw you in and trap you for its duration. I was not intending to watch this film if I am being honest. I put it on with the intention of watching the first 20-15 minutes to see how much of a travesty it was. 125 minutes later I am realised that my jaw has been on the floor for a while.
Visually dark this is a very haunting film which I would not necessarily put kids in front of. There were times I felt it was creepy and I’ve been watching horror movies since the 1980’s. The pacing of the film did not make it sprint from situation to situation, but it still moved fast enough to entertain. It is just that there was plenty of time afforded to explore what was going on at each stop, before racing forward to Pinocchio’s next misadventure. Before you know it, you’ve seen Pinocchio being kidnapped by the marionette theatre, you’ve met the Fox and the Cat, you’ve seen donkey Pinocchio and he’s been swallowed by the giant dogfish.
This adaption of the Collodi’s classic kid’s story is mostly faithful to the source material. There is occasional use of CGI as you might expect, but there is an awful lot of make up and costume specialty in this as well as some practical effects too. Some of the make-up and costumes made the piece feel like it could be performed in a stage show as easily as it looked on film. The scenery on show as well as the effects, make-up, and wardrobe, the locations were wonderful. Filmed in some picturesque parts of Italy it is easy to imagine the joy of exploring these wonderful locations yourself.
I watched the Italian version with subtitles. I am aware that there is a dubbed version available, but I would rather hear the actors speaking their lines in their native tongue. It felt more authentic and more poetic – the latter is a description I would use to summarise the film. It was a poetic and occasionally hauntingly beautiful adaption of the story.
This version of Pinocchio might not be everybody’s “cup of tea”. It might not be the easiest and prettiest of films for children to watch. One thing it is though is memorable and well crafted. I am happy to give this 7 out of 10 – but I would suggest caution and maybe watching the trailers before deciding if you want to sit down to it alone or with family gathered around.