Life and Loss: GUILLERMO DEL TORO’S PINOCCHIO
Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio is a dark and visually stunning reimagining of the classic fairy tale that stays true to the spirit of the original story while adding new layers of complexity.
Guillermo del Toro and fellow co-writer Patrick McHale reinvent Carlo Collodi's classic tale of the wooden marionette who is magically brought to life by a grieving woodcarver named Geppetto. This whimsical, stop-motion musical directed by Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson portrays the mischievous and often dangerous adventures of Pinocchio in his pursuit of proving his place in the world as a real boy, Set in a dystopian version of Italy during the rise of fascism in the 1930s, we witness a series of Pinocchio’s episodic adventures, as he encounters a diverse and engaging cast of characters.
In Italy during the Great War, carpenter Geppetto lost his son Carlo during an aerial bombing. Geppetto honors his memory by planting a pine cone near his grave, spending many years in mourning. One night after a drinking bout, Geppetto cuts down the pine tree in a fit of drunken rage, and begins to create a substitute for his dead son out of its wood. After leaving the puppet unfinished a bluish Wood Sprite brings it to life. The Sprite meets Sebastian the cricket and promises to grant him a wish, in exchange for acting as Pinocchio's guardian.
Once Geppetto discovers that Pinocchio is alive, he sends Pinocchio to school. However, along the way Pinocchio is intercepted by Count Volpe, a nefarious circus owner, and his performing monkey Spazzatura. Volpe convinces Pinocchio to join his show as a star performer. Geppetto arrives to bring Pinocchio home and confronts Volpe, resulting in Pinocchio being struck by a car. Thus begins the trials and tribulations of Pinocchio as he experiences the afterlife and encounters Death, learning through his rebirth and subsequent journeys the profound truths of loss, loneliness, death, and sacrifice.
The animation and art direction in Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio are simply stunning, with each frame filled with intricate details and vivid colors that transport viewers to a fantastical world that is both beautiful and haunting. The ambition of its filmmakers is evident, who manage with their technical skills to produce a world that comes to life in the most ideal way through stop-motion, supported by masterful animation and lighting. The hand-crafted construction and mechanics for each creature push the limits of depiction, with their expression and realism.
While the film's themes of childhood innocence and the search for identity are timeless, the creators vision adds a layer of darkness and political commentary that gives the story added weight and relevance. The film is not afraid to confront difficult topics, including fascism, violence, and betrayal, making it a thought-provoking and emotionally resonant experience.
The voice cast of Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio bring nuance and depth to their respective characters. Gregory Mann’s performance is outstanding as Pinocchio as he encompasses the range of the wooden boy full of wonder, naivete, and mischief. David Bradley is equally well-cast as the grieving and imperfect Geppetto. Ewan McGregor steals the show in his role as narrator Sebastian J. Cricket. Tilda Swinton’s dual roles as Wood Sprite and Death are a creative success as well. The song interludes were a bit unexpected, but the music composed by Alexandre Desplat are emotional, engaging and well-placed.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is an exquisitely crafted work of art, tackling themes of a mature nature that viewers generally would not expect. This visually stunning and thematically rich film is a must-see for fans of Guillermo del Toro's unique brand of storytelling and anyone who appreciates animation as an art form.