A long time ago before a mustachioed man named Walt Disney cultivated a saccrine sweet and colourful world, fairy-tales used to be dark as sin. Crafted as lessons to frighten naughty children and keep them out of harm’s way, the ebb of blackness flowing through the magic and mysterious worlds saw princesses kidnapped, mermaids torn apart, Queen’s dancing to death, and eyes pecked out by birds.
We’re so used to seeing the flourishes of the Disney Company and the peers it subsequently inspired that we believe that fantasy and innocence go hand in hand. Adult spliced whimsies, however, can find a rich and plentiful home in the genre.
With mainstream fantasy movies having dried up into sequels or over-stretched books, filmmaker Matteo Garrone has reinvigorated the genre with the beating heart of a sea monster in his utterly majestic Tale of Tales.
Intertwining three different stories, adapted from Neapolitan poet and courtier Giambattista Basile, Tale of Tales (Il Racconto Dei Racconti) revolves around a jealous mother who’d commit heinous acts for her son, a kidnapped Princess and her flea obsessed father, and a King trying to woo an old woman he believes to be a beautiful and gifted singer. The film takes us to a fantastical kingdom where love, betrayal, jealousy, and dark magic run rampant with alluring and provocative images.
Starring Salma Hayak, Toby Jones, Shirley Henderson, and Vincent Cassel, what makes Tale of Tales one of the best films of last year?
Garrone has masterfully and sublimely worked the tales without overbearing them. Weaving the plots into a golden thread of enchanting story-telling, Garrone bewitches the audience seemingly without effort. Each tale is brimming with complex themes and emotions pulsating throughout. The main theme that trickles like a spewing fountain from a tree root is the idea of love and connection. Each tale looks at what pulls us towards one another and how that bond can be severed by envy, abandon, and lunacy. As bizarre as the intertwining tales are, they are finessed with utmost respect and these bonds. You will wane towards the characters thanks to each of their performers, both old and new alike, who, mirroring the stories themselves, never over-power one another.
What Tale of Tales delivers by the flesh is redolent imagery, picturesque scenes, and wildly imaginative creatures. If Guillermo del Toro were too tackle a period saga with Tarsem Singh, this will no doubt be the product. Though, even as those words dance upon the screen, I can assure you that this comparison doesn’t convey the truly magnificence Garrone has concocted for you. From costumes to make up, cinematography (credit to Peter Suschitzky whose use of natural pallets really invigorates this mystical kingdom,) to locations, Garrone spends every second of the film treating your eyes to a world of splendour and wonder whilst feeding your soul full-bodied hilarity and gloom.
With such evocative images that capture the essence of Baroque black wit and sumptuous performances by the cast, Tale of Tales is a profoundly original fantasy romp that engages you with the plentiful narrative and the images alike. Though there are moments where the movie puffs out it’s shimmering and colourful chest in lieu of an impeccably gripping story, these seconds of vanity roll into a glorious depiction of the visceral underbelly that we’ll merrily feast upon.
Tale of Tales is uniquely beautiful; the opulent score by Alexandre Desplat, the surging images, and the undeniably brilliant acting embroil this drama with wit and magic unlike anything seen.
Tale of Tales is available on Netflix!