This film was previously reviewed in February 2020 as part of our Berlinale Film Festival coverage.

While it may seem like Matteo Garrone is independently hopping on the recent live action Disney remakes train, the history of Pinocchio stretches back much further than the 1940 animated film – though this may be the version most familiar to audiences. Starting out as a children’s novel by Carlo Collodi, published in 1883, there have been countless adaptations since, and at least one further (Disney-owned) remake has already been announced.

Garrone, however, takes a decidedly non-Disney approach, sticking closely to the source material and offering the viewer a dark fairy tale that may well inspire nightmares in its younger viewers. The animal characters with decidedly human faces have a particularly haunting effect: eschewing any cutting-edge digital fur technology in favour of prosthetics and makeup by Mark Coulier, Pinocchio fully commits to the eerie oddness of the anthropomorphism on screen. This is never more evident than in Pinocchio himself (Federico Ielapi), who gazes out at the world with decidedly human eyes once his face has been chiseled out of a seemingly enchanted block of wood by Geppetto (Roberto Benigni).

As soon as Geppetto has carved feet for Pinocchio, the wooden boy uses them to run away from his father figure, subsequently getting into all kinds of mischief. Though integral to the plot, this is rather unfortunate for the film, as the scenes between the two certainly constitute its most touching parts. Benigni lights up the screen, lending his own lovably quirky energy to the character and adding spark to this otherwise fairly conventional adaptation; the middle part without Geppetto, filled to the brim with episodic misadventures as it may be, stretches out too long, adding up to a run-time of just over two hours.

Pinocchio is still an enjoyable film, boasting an appropriately whimsical score and beautiful production design, and succeeds in creating a fairy tale even among the realism of poverty-stricken rural Italy.



CAST: Federico Ielapi, Roberto Benigni, Rocco Papaleo, Massimo Ceccherini, Marine Vacth

DIRECTOR: Matteo Garrone

WRITERS: Matteo Garrone, Massimo Ceccherini (screenplay), Carlo Collodi (novel)

SYNOPSIS: A faithful adaptation of the famous story of the wooden puppet that is brought to life at the behest of a poor, lonely woodcarver.