Director: Matteo Garrone (2016)
Full of deliciously dark deeds and black comic moments, this fabulously grotesque fairytale is definitely not one for the kids.
In the grand tradition of European folk stories it’s a moral foray through a murky forest of avarice, gluttony, madness, magic and death.
With a minimal of dialogue its entwining stories are expertly twisted together by a marvellous mix of strong performances, stunning costume design, incredible locations and beautiful cinematography.
The loosely connected stories of three medieval monarchs begin with Salma Hayek’s Queen who is longing for a child.
A cloaked figure guarantees her a child but warns of a potentially lethal price. The Queen’s husband must kill a sea monster and its heart must be cooked by a virgin and then eaten by the Queen.
Dishonesty causes repercussions which pass down the years.
Meanwhile Vincent Cassel’s debauched king courts a singing maiden without having seen her face. Toby Jones is a wonderfully distracted king who organises a tournament to find a prince to marry his daughter.
Ogres, giant fleas, leeches, jugglers, fire eaters, dwarves and a fat lady add flavour to this witches brew of story telling. A circus troupe adds a layer of theatricality and make believe to the mythic environment.
Roccascalegna castle is one of several perfectly chosen examples of Italian architecture which anchor the extraordinary events in our imagination.
None of the royal plans ends in the way they or us expect as they discover lies and self interest have severe and deserved consequences.
The final shot is a breathtakingly beautiful comment on the frailty and difficulty of life, offering a degree of compassion to those who have suffered through their own weakness.