It should come as no surprise to anyone that the master of modern dark fairy-tales like Pan’s Labyrinth delivers an adaptation of Carlo Collodi’s fantasy novel that attacks the ideologies of fascism with sharp wit and frank honesty. GDT’s Pinocchio acts as companion piece to the aforementioned film and The Devil’s Backbone in its audacious exploration of childhood set in a world of violence. This time, the rise of Mussolini in 1930s Italy provides the backdrop for a stop-motion musical, that strikes a similar tone to a Laika Studios production meets Tim Burton animation.
What is surprising, however, is in a year that has seen multiple adaptations of the novel, is how richly GDT mines the material for unexpected thrills, laughs and emotional depth. The director imaginatively captures the innocence of a child who is confronted with the atrocities and hypocrisy of the adult world, blending the horrors of humanity with lavish world-building.
The songs, which GDT had a hand in writing, may not be all that memorable, but the clever construction and juxtaposition of upbeat, heartfelt tunes with a mischievous satirical approach as the film gets increasingly darker, works in its favour.
The voice cast are a dream, with a young Gregory Mann injecting disobedient charm into his performance as Pinocchio, and David Bradley as Geppetto bouncing off him with poignant fragility and grumpy bewilderment. Ewan McGregor as ambitious raconteur, writer and of course conscience, Sebastian J. Cricket, is having a ball as comic relief and showman. It is Tilda Swinton’s impressive dual turn as the Blue Wood Sprite and Death that really lingers. Her scenes are hypnotic to watch thanks to the eye-catching design behind both of the magnificently rendered creatures, that take inspiration from Mexican mythology. The entire film is shot through with an otherworldly alluring intensity that never lets up.
Once again Guillermo del Toro has delivered a provocative, exquisitely crafted and timeless piece of filmmaking, that compellingly speaks to modern fears and anxieties.
Pinocchio was seen and reviewed at the London Film Festival. It will be released in UK cinemas in November and on Netflix on 9 December. Read more reviews from SciFiNow here.