Tale of Tales (Matteo Garrone, 2015): Italy

Reviewed by Joshua Borja. Viewed at AFI FEST 2015.

Matteo Garrone shows us his version of three classic Italian fairy tales to give us Tale of Tales. The film is beautifully shot and interweaving us through each of the three stories keep us engaged.

The first tells us about a king and queen trying to have a baby. They seek the help of a prophet-type. He tells them that the king must cut the heart out of a monster who lives in the sea, the heart must be cooked by a virgin, and the queen must eat it for her to have a baby. During this, the king dies while fighting the monster, however he does succeed in cutting the heart out. The heart is cooked and the queen eats it. The queen bears a child, however we are also shown that the virgin who cooked the heart also had a child at the exact time of the queen. Years later, the two boys, who look identical, are secretly friends against the wishes of the queen.

The second story follows two sisters. One sister catches the attention of a king when he hears her singing, but he does not see her. He lusts for her and goes to her door to try and court her. The king does not realize, however, both sisters are quite old, and not attractive. The two sisters then must find a way to court the king for his money without him ever seeing them.

The third story is about a king and his daughter. His daughter enjoys her time in the kingdom, however grows restless and would like to see the rest of the world. To do this, the king must find his daughter a suitor for her to marry. Reluctant at first, the king devises a plan meant to trick all possible suitors and claim they are not worthy for her. His plans fail, and entertainment ensues.

There were certain things however that picked at my brain during the film, and now still. Each of the three stories had its own royalty (a king or a queen). Seeing this, I believed that perhaps each story was in its own kingdom. This is contradicted in the first king’s funeral scene, and the end of the film, where almost all characters can be seen together. Lastly, I was walking out of the theater with an idea in my head that was solidified by an older man who started to talk to me about the film: “These can’t be fairy tales.” Fairy tales are usually meant for children, and usually, there is a moral to one, a lesson to be learned. These are not apparent in any of the three stories this film has to offer.

Nonetheless, these three stories braided together made for a film that was entertaining from start to finish.

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