Tale of Tales
Starring Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, Toby Jones, Shirley Henderson, Bebe Cave, Christian Lees, Jonah Lees,
Italian director Matteo Garrone has changed what I consider visionary after his horror fantasy Tale of Tales. With Disney doling out forgettable fairy tales right and left, and large musical productions like Into the Woods, the origin of the fairy tale has been lost and forgotten. No, I am not talking about Grimm’s fairy tales, Italian Giambattista Basile (1566 – 1632) is credited with being the originator of such stories and “Entertainment for Little Ones”. His stories would likely frighten anyone under the age of 10, which is why Tale of Tales appeals more exclusively to adults. Garrone’s international cast, art deco set designs and Game of Thrones like presentation make this film unrivaled, original and unforgettable.
In the Kingdom of Darkwood the King (John C. Reilly) and Queen (Hayek) have been unsuccessful in producing a child. The Queen’s sadness drives her to extreme measures, accepting the pregnancy advice of a strange hooded figure. The Queen will become instantly pregnant, but someone else will die, this is the price she must pay. In the kingdom of Highmountain a King (Jones) lives with his daughter Violet (Cave) who yearns for a life outside the palace walls. The king has discovered a rapidly growing flea, and takes this creature as a pet who grows to the size of a large dog. Meanwhile he auctions his daughter off to the man who can solve a riddle, which turns out to be a violent and dangerous ogre. In the kingdom of Stronghold there lives a lustful king (Cassel) who wants every young maiden. He hears the beautiful voice of a girl but in actuality it’s one of two old sisters. Her persists, but they dare not show their wrinkled faces. Summoned to his chambers one evening, Dora stretches her skin, insists there be no light and gets into bed with the king.
The detail from costumes, kingdom filming locations and the various creatures throughout the film positively besiege the viewer’s senses.
The American Hollywood system has ruined not only the horror genre, but fantasy and the fairy tale. Much of the blame should be assigned to Disney, but few filmmakers have tried to rescue genre films from mass production. Pans Labyrinth based on an original script by del Toro isn’t a fairy tale, but it’s closer to what Garrone visualizes from the writing of Basile. Tale of Tales is as visually stunning as it is well acted as it is captivating. Even the retro looking 90’s sea monster segment looks like a children’s book illustration brought to life. The detail from costumes, kingdom filming locations and the various creatures throughout the film positively besiege the viewer’s senses.
As with many fairy tales the warning, “Be careful what you wish for”, certainly applies here. Unlike how the modern era has glorified these stories with happy endings, losing much of their life lessons or warnings, the term “happily ever after” does not apply. Whether or not intentionally influenced by the style and methodology of Game of Thrones, Garrone certainly captures the medieval culture and equates the violence and unpredictability to that of the HBO series. There is a dark comedic deviance in the retelling where one character might be both antagonist and protagonist. That’s what makes this type of fairytale unique and exclusive, it’s represents moral complexity’s instead of just bad witch or heroic knight.
It’s Game of Thrones meets the fairytale presented in epic visionary style.