In recent years, ‘The Adventures of Pinocchio’, the classic novel by Carlo Collodi, is experiencing a second youth. In just three years, there have been five feature films that have addressed the story of the puppet that ends up becoming a real child. There have been adaptations that have recovered the author’s spirit, such as Matteo Garrone’s version -one of the best, needless to say-; to others that it is better to forget, with the one made by Robert Zemeckis for Disney+ and that was a live-action remake of the acclaimed 1940 animated filmconsidered one of the best films in the history of cinema, although it is not considered the most faithful version of Collodi’s work.
Now comes a new interpretation, that of Guillermo del Toro, who premieres in cinemas his proposal made in stop-motion animation and that he opts for the path of taking the story to his territory, as happened with the acclaimed version of 1940. With which, those who are looking for a faithful version of Collodi’s novel, will have to see Garrone’s adaptation (magnificent, it is possible point). However, that does not prevent you from enjoying the unique look of the Mexican filmmaker, who knows how to respect the spirit of the book in a more free way. The example of this is that he transfers the story to fascist Italy covering both World War I and the interwar period and the start of World War II.
To this is added that transforms the original story by episodes into an adventure whose morals serve to bring that spirit of a story by fragments. Yes, he chooses to give Jiminy Grillo a greater role -in the original story, he is only in a few chapters- and he opts for transforming the Island of Games and becoming a donkey into a metaphor for how Mussolini’s Italy minors were taken to fight in the war against their will. The one that Del Toro; who directs the tape along with Mark Gustafson and signs the script along with Patrick McHale, based on a story by both him and Matthew Robbins, choosing to set the plot in that time is quite a declaration of intent.
This is seen by leaving more evidently the critique of savage capitalism, which creates modern forms of slavery, as happens to Pinocchio, prey to Count Volpe – a character that mixes Mangiafuoco (Stromboli in the 1940 Disney version) and Zorro (also known as Honest John); by becoming a puppet in the clutches of a businessman who seeks to exploit him until exhaustion. Del Toro adds the concept of immortality in the puppet, which invites reflection on the consequences of an eternal life and how this can become a punishment.
Del Toro makes a craft film that he takes to his land, while respecting the spirit of Collodi’s work
These reflections, supported by del Toro’s selection of certain essential chapters of Collodi’s classic (such as Pinocchio being eaten by a sea beast or his nose growing when he lies), make his Pinocchio a very personal and authorial version, which has the correct balance when it comes to introducing changes and maintaining the original spirit of Collodi’s work, which was a clear metaphor for the human condition. The innocence of the puppet, who does not know the evils of the human being, knows how to combine with the impetuosity of those who do not know the social codes. To this is added the brutal learning that the puppet does when facing the different faces of the interests of humanity, in a polarized and divided world. Also in relation to the relationship between Pinocchio and Gepetto, born by chance and taught that parents and children should be accepted and understood as they are.
To this, in addition, Del Toro adds a magnificent handcrafted animation, with an aesthetic typical of the filmmaker’s worlds, forming a kind of thematic trilogy with ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ and ‘The Shape of Water’, in relation to reinterpreting the fables. It is his animation that also brings that baroque essence characteristic of Collodi’s work, as did Garrone or the team led by Ben Sharpsteen and Hamilton Luske in the 1940 animated film. The care for the movement of characters and a production design between Baroque and Gothic make the public fully immersed in history. Added to this is Pinocchio’s own charisma, in that mixture of ingenuity and impetuosity.
Definitely, this is one of the best film adaptations of Collodi’s work, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is an epic fantasy with those morals typical of traditional tales. A parable about the human condition through the eyes of a puppet whose heart proves to be that of a real child. A formidable and fascinating work, which It will conquer both the followers of the novel and the most profane of writing.
The best: Its animation and how Del Toro has managed to fit the story into fascist Italy.
Worst: The role of Jiminy Cricket feels somewhat wasted.