There is something rich and strange and generous in Matteo Garrone’s new live-action Italian version of the Pinocchio story, for which the director and his co-screenwriter Massimo Ceccherini have gone back to the original 1883 children’s tale by Carlo Collodi. They have given us a story which combines sentimentality and grotesqueness in a very startling way.

Do not think this is the Disney-version made into a live-action wooden puppet. This is the original Italian edition, made with the best Italian actors of the moment. With a few scary scenes, this movie is not recommended for the very young kids.

This drama is that of Pinocchio – the magical wooden puppet who yearns to be a “real boy” – gains this authentic humanness by being exploited, by suffering and finally getting re-born with skin and hair… in a stable, as it happens.

The film is beautifully imagined, atmospherically shot in what looks like natural lighting, with unobtrusive special effects: the well-known growing-nose incident is strikingly handled here. It’s genuinely fascinating.

In the end, perhaps Pinocchio is a parable of parenthood: when we have a child, there is something uncanny and strange about him or her, like a doll brought to life. In our hearts, perhaps, we can’t quite believe that this is a human being like us, who will come to have thoughts and feelings independently of us – become “real”, in fact.

Next year, Guillermo del Toro is due to bring out his own version of Pinocchio and it is reportedly going to be “darker”.

Well, we shall have to see how that turns out, although what I liked about Garrone’s adaptation is that it didn’t just put a “dark” spin on a story which is assumed to be straightforwardly Disney-cute in its original form.

The salty-sweet taste Garrone confects will perhaps be a little rich for some and the sentimental streak is certainly there. Pinocchio is a thoroughly bizarre story; Garrone makes of it a weirdly satisfying spectacle.

2h 5min | Drama, Fantasy | Italian with English subtitles
distributor 01 Distribution