Directed by Matteo Garrone, Tale of Tales (Il racconto dei racconti) is a European fantasy-horror film adapted from Giambattista Basile’s seventeenth-century fairy tale collection, the Pentamerone. The film intertwines three stories all set in a fantastical world with kings, queens, monsters, witches and ogres. In one tale, a childless queen (Salma Hayek) devours the heart of a sea creature in order to become pregnant. At a nearby kingdom, a king (Toby Jones) with a bizarre penchant for fleas carelessly gives his daughter away to a barbaric ogre. In the third tale, a lecherous king (Vincent Cassel) propositions an old woman whom he mistakes for a beautiful maiden.
Save for the occasional less-than-stellar CGI, Tale of Tales is impressively crafted with gorgeous set and costume designs. Unlike other films that juggle multiple storylines, this fairy tale adaptation doesn’t suffer from weak or boring plot points. Though set in different kingdoms, all three tales are bound by their similar themes of lust and selfish desires. Some viewers may take issue with the film’s inconsistent tone, which ranges from humorous to disturbing. But I find that this tonal range enhances the tales and makes them all the more spellbinding. Given its artistic sensibilities and quality acting, it’s no surprise that the feature was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or at last year’s Cannes Film Festival.
As an adult-oriented dark fantasy, Tale of Tales could understandably be compared to Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth. Both highly stylistic, the two films combine elements of fantasy and horror, with the former embracing more bizarre content and the latter favoring a bleak atmosphere. Excluding the action-based variants of this genre (e.g., Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters) and kid-friendly Disney adaptations, genuinely creepy fantasy or fairy tale films are hard to come by. That said, Tale of Tales is a refreshingly unique entry into this genre. The feature is slated for a limited theatrical release starting April 22nd.
WICKED RATING: 8/10
Director(s): Matteo Garrone
Writer(s): Matteo Garrone, Massimo Gaudioso, Ugo Chiti, Edoardo Albinati
Stars: Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, Toby Jones, John C. Reilly
Studio/ Production Co: Archimede Film, HanWay Films, Recorded Picture Company
Budget: $14.5 million
Length: 134 mins.
Sub-Genre: Dark fantasy