CRITICISM – After Disney and so many others, the Mexican director revisits the tale of Collodi by deviating from the original text. In the fascist Italy of the war years, he confronts his little hero with lies and death. Pinocchio, a film not to be missed on Netflix.
From the first images, we discover a close-up of a snow-covered pine cone hanging from a conifer. A harp and a pan flute accompany the image as the camera moves forward to follow the footprints in the snow of Gepetto. In Italian, Pinocchio means “pine eye”. As if to better convey to the viewer that he is committed to revisiting the tale of Collodi, Guillermo del Toro clings from the start to this tree which now symbolizes Christmas throughout the world.
His Pinocchio will not be yet another version of the tale of Collodi. No, the Mexican director even specifies it in a note of intent, this story “is particularly close to heart”, even though it has been told over and over again. And to add: “The first time I considered getting down to PinocchioI was very young and I felt that there was a great closeness between Pinocchio and Frankenstein – and, in my opinion, this connection still exists.
A kind of childlike Frankenstein’s creature
This is the advantage of great creators. Based on a story that we believe we know by heart, the director of The Shape of Water revisits the myth, invents, innovates, frees itself from a text to bring it towards its own themes.
By recontextualizing the adventures of Pinocchio in the fascist Italy of the Second World War, del Toro gives a boost to the plot. He imagines that Gepetto had a son who died by accident at the age of 10, and that he replaces him, during a night of grief and drunkenness, by sculpting a wooden puppet which turns out to be a kind childish Frankenstein creature, totally uninhibited and joyful.
Veil of melancholy
This monster child has no education, no barrier. He longs for only one thing: to be loved by his father. Gepetto, meanwhile, has not finished mourning his son, Carlo. At first he rejects the living puppet with a certain violence. But del Toro is keeping watch. By enlisting the services of the composer Alexandre Desplat, he transcends tragedy by transforming it into a musical comedy, whose rather lively tunes make us forget the darkness of certain misadventures suffered by the characters. Another brilliant idea, del Toro contacted the company of Jim Henson, the famous creator of the Muppet Show, and Kermit the frog. This is how the visual identity of this wonderful animated film makes Pinocchio a very successful wooden being, who is both a puppet and a little boy, undisciplined, too reckless and willingly boastful.
The theme of mourning is very present
Playing with the main elements of the Collodi tale, the director stages a fluorescent blue fairy that looks like it came straight out of the celestial creatures imagined by Ray Harryhausen, the legendary special effects designer responsible for the creation and animation of the monsters in Jason and the Argonauts Where Clash of the Titans. We also find the famous whale, and the nose which lengthens when Pinocchio dares to lie.
As for the cricket Jiminy Cricket, who has become a novelist ready to tell his memoirs (Stridulations of my youth), in addition to his role as a mentor, he is the voice-over narrator of the plot.
The theme of mourning is very present in the film. “The only thing that makes human life precious, you see, that gives it meaning, is death”we hear in Pinocchio. This is not surprising, as death is such an integral part of Guillermo del Toro’s Mexican culture. We emerge from this moving and luminous version, with a big smile even if it remains veiled by a small cloud of melancholy…