“Le Temps”: Why tell the story of “Pinocchio” again, the story of Carlo Collodi having already been adapted so many times to the cinema?
Matteo Garrone: Pinocchio is familiar to me. But I realized there were a lot of things I didn’t remember when I read it again, as an adult. And many others that had never been told on the screen before. I then understood that there was a flaw; the possibility, while remaining faithful to the great masterpiece of Collodi, to again surprise the spectator. To overcome his distrust, even legitimate, towards a new adaptation, to make him forget from the first minutes a story he already knows and to take him into a magical world.
You have chosen to stick faithfully to the original story…
Pinocchio is a labyrinthine text, where it’s easy to get lost. We tried to focus the heart of the story on the love relationship between father and son. Our research work lasted several years. It was based on the text by Collodi, but also on the illustrations drawn by Enrico Mazzanti through direct dialogue with the author. So it seemed important to me to build simple, essential, almost monochromatic images in some cases. The relationship with animals, as allegories of society, was also fundamental. But unlike the fable, my animals have an anthropomorphic form. See an animal speaking, as in live actions Disney, I’m strange, sounds wrong. I preferred to create half human and half animal creatures.
You’ve always said that your characters must resonate with you. Is this Pinocchio’s case?
To make a film, I always have to feel a deep connection with the character. I also have to imagine a world and feel in myself the possibility of finding a new way of telling it. I have to travel inside the souls of the characters I tell and their conflicts. I drew the first storyboard of Pinocchio when I was 6 years old! I still have it today in front of my desk. I think it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever done. This story has accompanied me for over forty years. Maybe that’s why my films always look like fables. I also recognize myself very much in the central theme of the work, in the relationship between the father and his son. I think this film is a debtor of my love for my son. So I was born and grew up like Pinocchio and then in a sense became Geppetto.
After “Reality”, “Tale of Tales” and “Dogman”, can you say that you are a storyteller of black fables?
The fables speak of us, our desires, our conflicts. The human and its contradictions fascinate me. Fables are fundamental to understanding reality because they have no temporality. Pinocchio, even if located at the end of the 19th century, is extremely modern. Even today, the world is filled with cats and foxes. In Tale of Tales, inspired by 17th century fables, there was already talk of cosmetic surgery, of becoming young again. Gomorra also, although in a more documentary style, is in a way a black fable. The film tells about the raped childhood, the violence of the world and how these people fight daily to survive.
You are regularly cited as one of Federico Fellini’s heirs. Who is it for you?
Like Roberto Rossellini, he is one of my greatest references. Our generation humbly tries to build a bridge to bring us closer to the great tradition of Italian cinema celebrated around the world in the 1960s, and which formed us, in Italy as elsewhere. Sometimes the market pushes for choices that seem ambiguous, like shooting in English, which may make distribution easier. But I could very well have realized Tale of Tales in Italian. A film is international if it is good. It will sell worldwide with this condition. I think that Pinocchio is a deeply Italian film. I’m very proud of it. Its authenticity and its strength are linked to its Italianity.
Pinocchio, by Matteo Garrone (Italy, France, United Kingdom, 2019), with Federico Ielapi, Roberto Benigni, Rocco Papaleo, Marine Vacth, Massimo Ceccherini, 2h05.