Heartrending Reimagining Is A Classic In The Making [LFF]

Jan 9, 2023

“All good things require patience,” Gepetto (David Bradley) lovingly tells his young son, Carlo (Gregory Mann). The exact same words must have been uttered by Guillermo del Toro to himself countless times over the fourteen years he spent working on his dream project, a stop-motion adaptation of Carlo Collodi’s 1886 classic tale, “The Adventures of Pinocchio.” The Mexican auteur, a well-known lover and supporter of animation, first fell in love with the tale of the wooden puppet who wished to be a real boy when he was a boy himself, going to the local cinema with his mother in Guadalajara (“Animation is a medium, not a genre. Animation is film,” he famously said in a quote often employed by the most fervorous supporters of the craft).
READ MORE: ‘Pinocchio’: Guillermo Del Toro Explains Why His Stop-Motion Film Is Set In Fascist Italy
First announced in 2008, Guillermo del Toro’s “Pinocchio” was initially scheduled to be released in 2013, but the ambitious project unluckily fell into the dire pits of development hell – the budget and time necessary to realize the director’s vision a sour prospect to studios drawn to swiftly churned, profitable endeavors. Since that first public announcement, many names have tied and untied themselves from del Toro’s white whale. In 2011, animation expert Mark Gustafson (of “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” fame) was brought in to co-direct with artist Gris Grimly, whose Pinocchio illustrations served as inspiration for the film’s character designs. In 2012, Grimly and del Toro switched seats, with the Mexican filmmaker taking the director’s chair on top of penning the script. 
In 2018, production titan Netflix stepped in to rescue del Toro’s ever-elusive dream, granting the director the money and creative freedom required for a project of such mammoth scale. “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” (the director’s name precedes the film’s official title) took a whopping thousand days to make, the lengthy process reflected in the level of detail seen in the movie. Hot chocolate shakes inside tiny cups, a dog’s ribcage is exposed under furry skin, a juicy pear drips with sugar, and every single element within every scene is a piece of artwork in itself.  
In del Toro’s reimagining, Pinocchio’s tale is set against the bleak backdrop of Benito Mussolini’s Fascist Italy. When speaking about the reasoning for the decision to The Hollywood Reporter, the director stated, “For me, it’s always been the movies about fatherhood (…) Fascism seems to be concerned with a father figure of a different kind and the desire to deliver ourselves to a father that unifies thought. So I think it’s both background and something interesting thematically.” This hovering of the nefast ripples of uncontested obedience guides much of the moral musings at the core of del Toro’s film, with Pinocchio steadfast in his quest to test and try the empty threats spewed by authoritarian figures. The director is willing to be playful with the choice, too, employing the figure of Pinocchio to wittily question the power of symbolism. 
If the seminal 1940 Disney animation worked as a twisted cautionary tale that perpetuated the idea of discipline as the sole course to moral goodness, del Toro’s take on the olden story focuses on embracing death as the only viable path to a meaningful understanding of life and rejecting conformism as the only viable path to acceptance. Tangled concepts relating to family, love, guilt, and legacy are made ever more potent by the efficient poignancy of simplicity. Here, the course to moral goodness is a slippery, nebulous one, morality in itself a fable as void of tangibility as a living wooden puppet. Loss lingers, at first an all-consuming cloak of grief, but then, gradually, transmuted into a heartfelt framing device, death treated by del Toro with the rare honesty of those less preoccupied with what they will leave behind than what they can achieve — and offer — during the precious time they have within the vastness of the world. 
Despite being a retelling of a story classically targeted at children and attached to the outdated understanding of animation as a medium dedicated to family-oriented entertainment, the film refuses to sanitize life’s most daunting aspects in favor of vapid distraction. There are no euphemisms; the truth is carefully presented through the kind of thoughtfulness that forgoes condescendence. Death is final; love is not. Grief is permanent; sorrow is not. It is a gift — albeit an often uncomfortable one — to all of those who will one day have to hold these delicate conversations. 
A classic in the making, “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio,” is a striking reminder of why certain stories stand the test of time. Through the eyes of the Mexican filmmaker, the familiar fable is made anew, carefully carved by the hands of an artist eternally enamored with his craft. This loving relationship between creator and creation imbues the film with the type of contagious excitement that brings one back to the joy of the early days of cinemagoing, a thrilling jolt of nostalgia that only emphasizes the miraculous nature of this fresh recreation. [A+] 
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Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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