Sunday, July 19, 2009

We're all Pinocchio (Film - Pinocchio by Roberto Benigni)

Italian clown Roberto Benigni has created a charming film version of the classic story Pinocchio with one foot planted firmly in the Italian commedia dell'Arte tradition and the other in contemporary film making. First off, choose the Italian version and suffer the subtitles. It has a way more authentic feel; it makes no sense to get a film with specific live actors cast in it and then to listen to someone else. Children will enjoy and understand the film but it seems to me that he made it for adults. Benigni has cast himself as the little puppet made of wood. In fact, he casts adult actors in all the children's roles - Kim Rossi Stuart is particularly fun casting for Pinocchio's friend Lucignolo - it's a choice that really works. Thankfully, these adult actors play the essence of children, particulary their decision-making behavior, their understanding of consequences, and their ability to make choices which delay gratification or consider morals or society's mores, but do not play-act their superficial characteristics. (That's a choice I always find insufferable. It's so insulting to children). As I watched intially I thought - Oh! Benigni and his wife have a recently had a child, because this film makes delicious comedy, as well as a moral fairy tale, out of children's (of a certain age) ability to only see what is right in front of them, their inability to consider future consequences if they want the cookie NOW, their willingness to lie like a rug to get it, their absolute devastation at being denied it, and their equally enthusiastic remorse for having done something wrong, or complete love for someone who shows them love. But then I thought, that's not just children, that's adults too. Look at the way we have used energy without concern for consequences for decades and suddenly when sources dry up and people are sick from the resulting polution people get cranky and cry. Then they reduce energy use, but only because they've been forced to by the expense. Look at the credit crisis. The banks were just like Benigni's Pinocchio - ooh look what we can get! I like that. Let's get more right now, and more, and more. So were the investors who thought that large amounts of credit that you never pay back were endless. So are those who now think that a few months of economic stimulus should have solved all the problems - they must really belive in fairies, just like Pinocchio. In any case, this film has a point to make about human decision making and its consequences that is not subtly made, but is fashioned with great imagination and sense of play into a delightful film.

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