Tale of Tales – Dark yet beautiful fairy tales
Directed by: Matteo Garrone
My daughter and I recently had a conversation, where we talked about how many of the fairy tales that Disney has based some of it’s biggest film on are actually much darker than most people realize. She brought up how in the original tale of “Pinocchio” the boy eats Jimminy cricket to shut him up. You know… stuff like that. We then started getting into the works of the brothers Grimm and others, and before long I was telling her about how, as a kid growing up, most of my favorite movies were ones that were also dark fairy tales that would scare the pants off of most kids today. I reminisced about watching Tim Curry as the terrifying Darkness in Ridley Scott’s “Legend” and we talked about how scarring it was to watch Atreyu lose his horse in the swamp in “The Neverending Story”. I found myself wishing that, like Guillermo Del Toro and Jean Pierre Jeunet, more filmmakers would have the guts to bring darker more adult themed fantasy to the screen.
My wish came true, in the form of Matteo Garrone (“Gomorrah”) and his film “Tale of Tales” (based on the stories of Giambattista Basile). The film is centered around three intertwining stories of three adjacent kingdoms and the rulers of those kingdoms. First, there is the king and queen of Longtrellis played by John C. Reilly and Salma Hayek who will do ANYTHING to have a child to call their own, regardless of the consequences.
Second is the king of highhills, played by Toby Jones, who becomes so enamored with his giant pet flea that when it dies he copes by creating a tournament that dooms his own daughter (wonderfully played by Bebe Cave) to a living hell.
And, last is the king of Strongcliff, played by Vincent Cassel, who when he hears the singing of a common woman from his castle decides he must have her. What he doesn’t realize is that she is an old woman. She desires his affection so much that she goes to great (and sadly desperate) lengths to attain it.
It doesn’t take a genius to see the social commentary and warnings against the trappings of greed in “Tale of Tales”. Isn’t that what most of the greatest fairy tales are though? Just old wives tales made to scare children out of getting into trouble and warn them against ugly behavior? Well, Garrone and his co-writers, cinematographer Peter Suschitzky, and composer Alexandre Desplat all team up with a wonderful cast to make this dark fairy tale a beautiful, wondrous, accomplishment in story telling. And, don’t let the Disneyesque poster fool you… this is NOT a kid friendly fairy tale.