Film Review: Tale of Tales

In association with Glasgow Film Theatre


Tale of Tales contains 3 separate storylines based on a collection of fairytales by Italian Renaissance poet Giambattista Basile. The three plotlines contain many common motifs in fairytales: the barren Queen who seeks a child, the test to choose who will marry the princess, and the cunning old crones with a desire for youth. The film takes a fantasy horror approach to the material, with no holding back on blood and gore. Not surprisingly the image used on many posters is of the Queen eating the heart of a monster.

The film is visually stunning, with a fantastic use of contrast and colour. The production is beautiful, every frame striking. The visuals lend themselves well to the fairytales, as by being slightly exaggerated they make the world feel dreamlike and strange.

While the fairytales are unfamiliar to me, perhaps by their very nature they feel familiar in that way fairytales do. Tale of Tales relishes in the unreal logic of these fables, not backing away from the surreal and dreamlike ideas and images that fairy tales deliver. Despite this, the film feels constrained by its own source material, being unwilling to adapt and change the plot to suit modern sensibilities. While indulging in the horror and darkness that these fairytales bring, it also leads to some unfortunate implications, as the female characters are repeatedly the ones being punished. The males characters seem to never directly experience abuse. Instead, women have their bodies mutilated and endure other kinds of abuse as a punishment to their male counterparts.

I recognise that the film is a horror but the focus on the gory punishment of women when it does not happen to men really damaged my enjoyment of it. This disproportionate retribution for the crimes of the characters (not completely undeserved by the female characters) probably come from a desire to stay true to the source material. However, as recent adaptions of arguably problematic work like the recent BBC adaption of A Midsummer’s Nights Dream show, it is possible to remove the unsavoury elements from a work without disregarding the source material.

[Jo Reid]

The film will be running at Glasgow Film Theatre from the 17th to the 30th of June. Tickets here.

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