Tale of Tales – Movie Review

Genre – Adult Fantasy/Horror
Length – 2hr 14mins
Released in – 2015
My Overall Grading – 4 Stars

Tale of Tales (2015) is that blend of gothic fantasy weirdness which usually immediately catches my attention. As soon as I watched its suggestive atmospheric trailer, I craved to behold the whole movie, and I must say, I wasn’t disappointed.

Let me say this first and foremost – if you’re expecting yet another re-imagining of some popular children’s fairytale like Cinderella or Snow White, you’ll be disappointed. Actually, not even those narratives commonly known as fairy tales are meant for children at all, and only started to be projected that way for the multitudes, after severe editing and further changes by various 19th century writers, such as Charles Perrault and the Grimm Brothers .

Tale of Tales, an Italian-Franco-British production derived from the 17th century collection of tales known as Il Pentamerone and written by Neapolitan poet Giambattista Basile, can be described as an adult fantasy horror, or at best, a metaphorical cautionary tale.

Sinister, yet strangely sensual. Strange but graceful. Haunting yet moving. This movie is a strange experience and definitely not for children. Tale of Tales has three different and yet finally entwined story lines. On the one hand, we encounter the King and Queen of Selvaoscura, who, true to fairy tale canon, are having difficulty producing an heir. A wandering wizard tells them that to do this, they must find and kill a sea monster, and the Queen (Salma Hayek) must eat its heart. It’s portrayed as a horrifyingly huge bloody mass where she eagerly devours the organ on a silver platter.

The second tale takes us to Roccaforte, where a sexually voracious and dissolute king – played by Vincent Cassel – spies on a woman shrouded in a mantle, whom he believes to be a pretty young beauty, but who in reality is a hideous old crone. The crone’s only treasure is her loving relationship with her sister, who is also an old woman. The king hounds what he believes to be a new conquest, bullying and pressing the two sisters, who don’t know which way to turn without revealing their true identity and being punished for it.

The third story arch follows the King of Altomonte and his daughter Violet. The King (Toby Jones) is a shallow and comic creature, prioritizing the care of an unusual flea over that of his own daughter.

Throughout the three story-arches, the one constant emotion is that of obsession, which, we are shown, is the heart of all evil. Obsession vies with what is supposed to be the love of someone’s family. The Queen of Selvaoscura is obsessed with her son, which is why she seeks to destroy any ties he could have with other people. The King of Roccaforte is obsessed with claiming every young woman he sets eyes on, which results in betrayal, suffering and death. The King of Altomonte and his ridiculous obsession with the flea to the exclusion of all else brings about terrifying consequences.

Flea-petting, heart-eating, rape, flaying, betrayal, morbid jealousy… All this and more makes the movie a very strange and curious beast; a truly horrific Renaissance fairy tale. No wonder that, unlike other tales penned by Basile, these three weren’t even adapted to be read by children. Other tales of his, however, have inspired more well-known fairy tale writers such as Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm. In this case, the three tales explored and adapted for the screen – The Enchanted Doe, The Flea and The Flayed Old Lady – serve as a dark metaphor to show that real love of one’s family members doesn’t mean warping them into suiting our own wishes and desires, but accepting them for who they are, even if this means letting them go.

The movie also sports beautiful visuals, as filming locations include stunning palaces, haunting forests and beautiful gardens in NaplesTuscanyAbruzzo and Lazio, amongst others.

I truly recommend this movie to all those who are lovers of the unusual and the artistic – those who appreciate dark humor and black comedy, and who enjoy finding revelations of the truth couched in veiled metaphors and tragic-comic allegory, rather than stark black and white fables.

A version of this article written by me was originally published on Eve magazine.

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Reality vs Fake Airs- Why Write?

I’m not the kind of girl who likes to boast. I don’t play the passive-aggressive card. I don’t like playing the victim in order to get pats on the back. I don’t like putting myself down in public, in order to receive commiserating compliments. I got past all that immature stuff at approximately the age of 15.

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It does not mean that I am emotionless or that I don’t have feelings. On the contrary, it means that I only share what I find worth sharing. Moreover, I only share it with a limited number of people I am close to, and definitely not with social media at large. I’m not that desperate yet.

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Perhaps it could be that I don’t have the unmitigated urge to display all my insecurities and naggy rages because I have, I admit, always been kind of an introvert. Yes, I communicate and share my experiences through writing, but still I  pay attention to get only as personal as I’m comfortable with. Especially if I’m writing something which, I know, many people are going to read. How many intimate sentimental poems have I written? How many embittered and angry short stories, reflecting my moods and my past, have I penned? How many irritated rants about my disgust and dissatisfaction with the human condition at large have I scribbled? No one knows the answer to this question except myself. Mainly because no one has read them – or if they did, it was only one or two people at the most. This is because, when my heart bleeds and my fingernails gauge half-moons of frustration on my palms, I write – I cannot help it – it is the way I vent what I feel and the way I tick. However, just because I write something, actually showing it to someone is something else entirely. 

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I write for myself. I write because I cannot stop. I write because it helps me come to term with reality – ironic as that sounds.

Whether something is floating on a current of social media out there or not, is irrelevant.

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I guess it all depends on whether you prioritize yourself as an individual most, or whether you are more focused on how you appear to others. For me, my internal personal life has always been more important than the way others perceive me, how ‘popular’ I am or what a ‘good’ impression others have of me. In the end, I prefer having some friends who care for me for who I really am, than many acquaintances who might hang out with me for any fake ‘persona’ I might project. At least I know that those who love me, love me. In all my silly, eccentric, weird singularity.

Quoting one of (in my opinion) the greatest fantasy writers of all time:

“My immagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me all the world and exiles me from it.”
Ursula K. Le Guin

ANNIVERSARY of Edgar Allan Poe’s Mysterious Death!

I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity’ – Edgar Allan Poe

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Technically, this was yesterday, but I only realized today.

Edgar Allan Poe, his works, and his life, have always had a special fascination for me. He is the daddy of the horror genre and the supernatural mystery. His poems especially are so full of dark romantic agony, that they called to my trembling brimful heart from a very young age. Poe, who married his cousin a child bride of 13 who died only 2 years after the marriage (she was 15). Poe, who forever after wrote sad poems lamenting his pure innocent lost love. Poe who was given to bouts of depression, took laudanum and was a drunk, but published brilliant detective stories, the first of their kind. Poe, who always had a kind of mythological terror of cats, because for him they symbolized the dark wild part of himself, and who feature again and again in small ways in almost all of his prose-work.

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Poe who mysteriously and inexplicably died 166 years ago, yesterday.

Most people erroneously believe he died of his alcoholism but that is not the case. First of all, though he was a known alcoholic, he is reported to have not touched a drop for ages. Also, the person who found him, alone, confused and wandering, in the dark a week after he had disappeared from his home on the way to New York, said he looked sick but not drunk. Secondly, let us keep in mind that the person who wrote Poe’s biography after his death, Rufus Wilmot Griswold was a hated rival who was trying to portray him as badly as possible. He said he was ugly, dirty and unkept, a drunk, a brute and a savage. To which others, Poe’s doctor included, attested he was not. Unfortunately, there was no autopsy done on Poe’s body, and all his medical documents were ‘lost’, so there is no record of what actually took place.

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Theories abound. Some say he died of a heart-attack. Some that it was suicide (he had already overdosed on laudanum once), which is not possible since he was ‘found’ wondering the streets. Some say it was diabetes or tetanus.

Like Poe’s marvelluous detective mysteries, his death too, remains a mystery. Still he played and still plays a big influence on my mode of thought, not to mention my writing and my tastes. ALL HAIL EDGAR ALLAN POE – MASTER OF TERROR!

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Btw this is a very good article on his death – http://www.openculture.com/2015/10/the-mystery-of-edgar-allan-poes-death-19-theories-on-what-caused-the-poets-demise-166-years-ago-today.html

Enjoy 🙂