Tale of Tales

Tale of Tales - Salma Hayek
Directed by Matteo Garrone
Starring Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, Toby Jones, John C. Reilly, Shirley Henderson and Hayley Carmichael
In UK Cinemas June 17th, 2016

by Joanna Orland

Reminiscent of Pan’s LabyrinthThe Princess Bride and even the early work of Terry Gilliam, Tale of Tales thrives in its portrayal of a genre that is so rarely done justice in the world of modern cinema.

This is no Disney live-action fairy tale, no Snow White, no Huntsman, no Malificent, but a gruesome and fantastical series of fairy tales – of kings, queens, peasants, gypsies, ogres and hags.  An adaptation of three stories from the 17th century, Tale of Tales reflects on a pre-Disney era to examine the stories which have inspired our modern day lighter fairy tales.  Blood, gore, murder, sacrifice – this is a fairy tale not for children, but for adults wanting to experience the lost art of such storytelling.

Italian director Matteo Garrone displays his passionate Italian sense of filmmaking while using the English language to tell these stories.  The first is of a king (John C. Reilly) whose heartbroken queen (Salma Hayek) is unable to bear a child.  He sacrifices himself to bring her the heart of a sea serpent, which she must consume in order to become pregnant.  The next tale takes place in a neighbouring kingdom as another king (Toby Jones) becomes lovingly obsessed with his pet flea, moreso than the interests of his own daughter whom he marries off to an ogre.  The last tale is of another neighbouring king (Vincent Cassel) who falls in love with an old hag, mistaking her for a beautiful young maiden as he hears her lovely voice from afar.

As with all proper fairy tales, each of these stories has its moral, as thematically on point for today’s audience as it must have been in the 17th century.  Tales of greed, obsession, lust, selfishness are all on timeless metaphorical display. In spite of its dark themes and gory stories, Tale of Tales is not merely a film exploring the human condition, but one particularly relevant to a female audience. The queen’s relationship with maternity, the daughter learning to fend for herself and the hag tale of ageism all having strong female characters and issues at their forefront.

A fantastical story for a grown-up audience, Tale of Tales brings back the fairy tale genre to its truest form, defying the current state of Disney dominance.



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