VISITING FILMMAKER: MATTEO GARRONE
Through the “micro-episodes” of a stunning, medieval folklore, Matteo Garrone’s Italian-British film, Tale of Tales (Il racconto dei racconti) (2015) interweaves the thematic ties between three glamorous tales. Intertwined are the stories of major protagonists from three stories– ranging from kings, queens, the middle class, and paupers all facing the consequences of both obsession and fear.
From Salma Hayek and John C. Reilly as a royal couple who struggles to get a heir (and is offered a magical, yet bizarre solution), to, Vincent Cassel as a “sex-maniac” king who becomes obsessed by a mysterious woman with a beautiful voice (while her true identity is quite complicated… Dabbling between the gift of blessing and curse), to, Toby Jones as a king who drowns in a paternal-like love for a “strange animal” (despite neglecting his own daughter and her wishes to marry)–Tale of Tales is a stitched book of moving imagery: it is crafted in the Italian splendour and personalisation of Matteo Garrone, and inspired by the famous collection of tales by Neapolitan poet Giambattista Basile.
Q & A DISCUSSION WITH MATTEO GARRONE
Q: Why is the cast not largely diverse, in terms of race?
A: Contrary to what you think, I believe this is one of the first, contemporary Italian films that have the most diverse casts possible. Whether you mean in colour or ethnic background, for example, the film itself is an Italian-British-French hybrid, and Salma Hayek, as well as the “twins” and the king are all non-Italian actors, have unique physical features, and strongly executed the roles in the best way I could have imagined.
Q: What has caused your shift in interest from film that is realistic to absolute fantasy?
A: I think the way you can find realism in fantasy, through universality, and some sort empathy you can relate to in these stories. I think through fantasy I am also able to exercise my passion for lighting, color, and composition in my own taste.
Q: Why work with a story that has been already told, and more importantly, why specifically choose these three stories?
A: Since this film is an international film, also released to English-speaking audiences, I am not sure what type of fairytales they have been brought up with. I choose these three stories not necessarily because they all have something more or less in common together, but because I am able to relate to them personally, and I think so can the audience. I also want to elevate the splendour of Italian literature, introducing the decadence of our culture to audiences unknown to our vast history of poets and writers like Shakespeare.
With an overall rating ranging from 7 to 8 stars, the reviews of Garrone’s film are torn between constructing a film that is: too heavily exploited through irrelevance and in cohesive stories, while other reviewers feel that the stories Garrone put together are indeed well-related. Furthermore, as many viewers felt that the film moved progressively slow in the beginning, I believe the density that compiles as the film moves on makes the viewers forget how slow the beginning was. Additionally, I agree with Garrone that the tales he selected to retell– indeed capitalise on the notions of universality: re-approprating the themes in tales to the issues of obsession and fear in our own lives. Ironically, although fear was propagated by the characters in the film, fear itself, from the audience’s point of view, seemed to take on more of a satiric tone in many instances of the film: for example, in coming to know the oger, (especially when he prepares a meal for the princess humbly as a newlywed), she screams exaggeratingly, making the audience giggle because the oger is completely harmless, ironically, only when he takes care of her.
Through blood, desperation, and duplicity, obsession and fear is portrayed through the variations of love through sensual and explicit imagery. Garrone brings to life a hunger of Italian splendour in his investigation of medieval tales– a type of trivia in differentiating, and also equating, relationships in society from earlier centuries to the present. By re-creating these stories in his own craft of aesthetic and interpretation, Garrone is even able to isolate the tales through props— for example, dressing the three heroines in the tale as different, symbolic colours of royalty and class. Furthermore, by being able to parallel three entirely different, “but also similar,” stories, audiences will be bound to be entertained by an enchanted, grappling, and bizarre tale of contemporary humour and ancient strife.
RECEPTION | On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an 78% approval rating based on reviews from 18 critics, with an average rating of 7.1 out of 10. On Metacritic, the film has received a weighted average score of 80 out of 100 based on 10 critics, indicating “generally favorable reviews.”
NOMINATIONS | Palm d’Or – Cannes Film Festival 2015
WINNER | Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Sound – Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists 2015, Nastro d’Argento Awards
AWARDS + FESTIVALS | Cannes, Munich, Karlovy Vary, Helsinki, Rio de Janeiro