Film Reviews


By • Apr 9th, 2004 •

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Miramax Films
In Italian with English subtitles / 101 minutes

This film has a lot going for it: intriguing plot, strong acting, striking cinematography and gorgeous scenery. I’M NOT SCARED is based on the book by Niccolo Ammaniti.

Set in Italy, the main character is Michele (Guiseppe Cristiano), a pretty 10 year old boy with chiseled features. While playing near an abandoned villa he encounters a deep hole in which he sees something very alarming: a small foot sticking out from under a dirty blanket. He soon learns that what is attached to the small foot is a small, blonde Milanese boy. What unfolds is that the grown-ups in this tiny town, including his parents, have had the boy kidnapped for ransom.

The film juxtaposes innocence and corruption, childhood and adulthood. Michele’s instinct is to help Fillipo (Mattia Di Pierro), be it bringing him food or unshackling him and taking him out into the sunny fields, even if this means putting himself in danger. On the other hand, his mother is on the periphery of the kidnapping scheme and while she is conflicted about the crime being done onto a child the same age as her own son, she remains mute.

The children, much like the parents, are organized in a hierarchy of power. In both cases there is mutiny amongst the ranks. Early on the kids race through the fields towards the run down house. Michele is the last to arrive, having stopped to help his little sister, who has broken her glasses. Teschio, the leader, proclaims that Barbara, an overweight girl who is any easy target, is the loser. Michele insists on being deemed the loser to spare Barbara the humiliation of having to pull down her pants in front of everyone. From the onset, Michele insists on fighting for what is right and good. His altruism in this situation foreshadows how he will ignore parental authority and help the kidnapped boy.

The adults are restless and panicked at the thought of being caught and the pressure gets the better of them. This internal tension manifests itself symbolically through the weather. The elements beat down upon their tiny, industrial down, which is surrounded and dwarfed by endless cornfields of the Basilicata and Puglia regions. It is an oppressively hot summer. There is no place to go, no heat-relief and empty promises are made of trips to the sea. Adults and children are seemingly drugged and heavy. Torrential rains have them sprinting for cover. The camera moves with speed and weightlessness, capturing the landscape with the physicality and recklessness of running children.

Nature is a central theme in the film. Be it the climate or the natural surroundings, Nature is always witness. Racoons, hedgehogs, snakes, owls, frogs and dogs appear randomly throughout the film, watching the crime unfold. At one point, Michele’s sister is looking out into the darkening corn fields. She comments on a large dog that is sitting out there, watching, that Michele cannot see. Nature, in the sense of one’s fundamental character, is also a central metaphor. Michele’s essential nature demands that he not sit idly by as Fillipo is held captive.

It needs to be said that I’m a big sucker for Italy. Just hearing Italian again after some time made me quite content and the sweeping shots of the Puglia and Basilicata regions were enough to have me rummaging around my room for my passport upon my return home. My bias aside, I’M NOT SCARED does have its moments of predictability, but these do not detract from a suspenseful, charming and generally good film.

Director: Gabriele Salvatores
Screenplay: Niccolo Ammaniti & Francesa Marciano
Director of Photography: Italo Petriccione
Editing: Massimo Fiocchi
Production Design: Giancarlo Basili
Costume Design: Patrizia Chericoni & Florence Emir
Original Music: Pepo Scherman & Ezio Bosso
Arranged & Conducted by: Ezzio Bosso
Production Sound Mixer: Mauro Lazzaro
Produced in Italy by COLORADO FILM and CATTLEYA.

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