Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio - (Pictured) Pinocchio (voiced by Gregory Mann). Cr: Netflix © 2022

Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio - (Pictured) Pinocchio (voiced by Gregory Mann). Cr: Netflix © 2022

The cycle of life: the two aspects of life and death

One of the film’s most innovative features is the portrayal of two spirits, one of life and one of death, both voiced by Tilda Swinton. The spirit of life grants animation to Pinocchio, while the spirit of death appears several times throughout the story as the puppet suffers different deaths.

Since Pinocchio is not a true living being, he cannot truly die, and thus each time, he must dwell in the afterlife before returning.

Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio - (L-R) Pinocchio (voiced by Gregory Mann) and Count Volpe (voiced by Christoph Waltz). Cr: Netflix © 2022
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio – (L-R) Pinocchio (voiced by Gregory Mann) and Count Volpe (voiced by Christoph Waltz). Cr: Netflix © 2022

The afterlife depicted in the film is characterized by cold color tones and is where Del Toro’s style finds its full expression. Collodi’s doctors (the Raven and the Owl) serve as the spirit’s assistants, while the Rabbits play the role of gravediggers but also act as guides between the two worlds.

Esoterically, the rabbit is tied to the cycle of life and death, and in particular, the theme of resurrection, given that rabbits are typically born in spring, and their burrows are underground.

Italy and World War II

Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio - (Clocklwise) Spazzatura (voiced by Cate Blanchett), Gepetto (voiced by David Bradley), and Pinocchio (voiced by Gregory Mann). Cr: Netflix© 2022
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio – (Clocklwise) Spazzatura (voiced by Cate Blanchett), Gepetto (voiced by David Bradley), and Pinocchio (voiced by Gregory Mann). Cr: Netflix © 2022

Pinocchio is the quintessential Italian fairy tale, so it is not surprising that Guillermo del Toro decided to set it in Italy. The settings and landscapes are typical of Italian landscapes. The Italian essence is perfectly recognizable in the architecture and the shapes of the buildings.

Del Toro has also intertwined the story with the theme of war, which he has explored in previous films, specifically, the Second World War. In Pan’s Labyrinth, he portrayed Franco’s Spain, while in Pinocchio, we see Fascist Italy and the atrocities that it brought.

Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio - (Pictured) Sebastian J. Cricket (voiced by Ewan McGregor). Cr: Netflix © 2022
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio – (Pictured) Sebastian J. Cricket (voiced by Ewan McGregor). Cr: Netflix © 2022

The film depicts the regime’s repression and the dehumanization of those who blindly followed a set of rules devoid of emotions.

An example of this is seen in Candlewick‘s father, who is willing to sacrifice his son for the cause of the regime. He is a man who doesn’t express any affection towards his son and instead tries to control and confine him to a certain path.

Candlewick is no longer the scamp who leads Pinocchio astray, but a boy who finds himself trapped in a prison-like existence. He is a child who wants nothing more than to be accepted for who he is and most importantly, looking for the approval of a distant and blind father…

Pinocchio thus becomes a vehicle to show the harsh reality of the regime within a familiar context. And it also prompts reflection on the horrors of war, which makes no distinctions between rich and poor, good and evil, adults and children, but indiscriminately takes lives under a veil of death.

 

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