Thursday, 23 June 2016

Film Review: Tale of Tales

Matteo Garrone’s Tale of Tales is unlike any fairytale movie you’d have ever seen. A mishmash of the fantasy, horror and supernatural genres, it is considerably darker, more sinister and a far cry from than the Disney classics we’re perhaps more used to.

The film loosely intertwines the three stories, each concerned with women who take fate and destiny into their own hands, often with grave consequences. The Queen, played by Salma Hayek is about the incredible lengths one woman goes through to acquire a child – involving eating the heart of a sea monster cooked by a virgin; The Flea about a King who neglects his daughter in favour of a flea and the Two Old Women about a King who is entranced by the singing of a woman whom unbeknownst to him, is very old. Salma Hayek albeit marketed as the biggest star in this movie, is given a role that disappointedly falls a bit flat. The writers missed an opportunity to create a truly vengeful Queen on the warpath. Instead, Hayek’s Queen comes off as just a bit bitter that her near-adult son doesn’t want to hang out with her all the time. Surprisingly however, was the standout emotional performance Garrone pulls out of newcomer Bebe Cave, who plays a princess sold to an ogre.

Despite using no CGI and just working with the natural environments, each of the three settings manage to be theatrical and grandiose, features that elevate the storytelling giving it such a visually rich and operatic quality. This is equally matched by its score. A good score is one that has the ability to say what is being unsaid and, express something in the film that might otherwise go unnoticed. And given that there isn’t much dialogue but the film still consistently intensifies and leads the audience’ emotions, is a testament to its score. 

Not darker as in, characters aren’t animated and the baddies are meaner, darker as in rape, being skinned alive and Vincent Cassel going down on two women at the same time. Yet despite being unconventional and frankly a bit nasty, the film makes a point to include fantastical elements that call back on some of what we now recognise as fairytales: ogres, trolls, witches and even a Rumpelstiltskin type character. Tale of Tales is magical, grim and grotesque all at the same time.

The film’s 17th century-esque Italian setting of the film also pays homage to the European origins of the genre, arguably inevitable because the source material on which the film is based – the Tale of Tales by Giammbattista Basile inspired the Brothers Grimm. 

Tale of Tales is deliciously repulsive, bold and obscene. It’ll either be absolutely your cup of tea or you’ll spend the entire time thinking, what on earth is this.

Rating: 8.5/10

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