In this section of our Colossus Movie Guide for Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, we look at the key shots that help us understand the film.
Key shots of Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Contrasting childhood and war
This is quick and painful. Early on, we see Carlo and Geppetto living a pretty nice, simple life. Carlo is 10 years old and just a happy kid. But a pair of shots juxtaposes childlike innocence versus the cruelty of the world. The first shot happens while Carlo swings. A cut to a POV shot shows planes in the blue sky. He runs in and excitedly tells Geppetto what he saw. In the next scene, these planes drop bombs on the quiet town, blowing up the church that Carlo happens to be in. Instead of a blue sky, the planes fly through a nighttime thunderstorm. The thunder and lightning captures the tragedy their about to unleash.
Life and death via pinecone
The pinecone is an important motif that del Toro uses to symbolize the circle of life. In short, we’re born, grow, hang onto our branch for as long as we can, and eventually fall. We never know when that time will come. An early death often leads to pain. But the end of a long life, spent with those you love, can be a beautiful thing.
del Toro makes sure to connect Carlo to the pinecone early on. And even has Geppetto carve Pinocchio from the tree grown from Carlo’s pinecone.
Companionship over selfishness
In Pinocchio, characters are at their happiest when they’re enjoying the company of others and helping one another. They’re at their loneliest when isolated or acting selfishly. Pinocchio wouldn’t have survived certain situations if he hadn’t befriended Candlewick and Spazzatura. Likewise, Candlewick and Spazzatura probably wouldn’t have survived without Pinocchio putting friendship over personal gain.
The path of fascism
del Toro extrapolates this conflict of selfishness vs companionship to the larger arena of Italian fascism. That’s because fascism is inherently self-interested and lacking in broader humanity. When Pinocchio is young and only thinking of his own wants, it leads him to Count Volpe’s puppet show. Which leads him directly to Mussolini and recruitment into the Italian army. It’s not a coincidence that the only time Pinocchio has strings on him is when he’s on this path. The few attempts he makes at companionship under Volpe and Podesta infuriates both leaders. They want to turn Pinocchio into something awful. Thankfully, his inherent kindness wins out. Its through his humanity and connection with Candlewick and Spazzatura that Pinocchio regains his freedom and can reconnect with Geppetto.
Religion: Christianity vs Paganism
del Toro makes a point to introduce Christianity, then has Carlo die in the church. Which seems like a very pointed statement. Especially since it’s the Wood Sprite who brings Pinocchio to life and is the sister of the Chimera who is literally called “Death”. So it seems del Toro has opted for more of a pagan view of the world. In fact, Pinocchio makes a comparison between himself and the wooden figure of Jesus that those in the church sing to. Later, Volpe hangs Pinocchio on a cross.
A sense of mortality
Pinocchio dies once but wakes up in the afterlife. Death is there and tells him that for right now, he can’t actually die. He just loses a bit of time before waking up. But each visit means more time. Eventually, Pinocchio comes to learn the true cost of this. Even if he can’t die, it means time away from those he loves. Those he wants to spend as much time with as possible.
I think most of us go through something similar. When we’re young, death is a faraway thing. Which is why teenager and kids in their early twenties tend to be risk takers. Everything they do, they tend to do with more abandon. Because things probably don’t feel as dangerous as they otherwise might. That means we can be reckless and frivolous with our time and our health. Eventually, we realize how precious all of this is. And our priorities shift. Maybe instead of playing 50 hours of video games a week, you spend more time with your parents and friends. Maybe instead of eating fast food all the time, you start cooking. We see how Pinocchio, as he becomes away of mortality, shifts his focus from “being a star” to just wanting to enjoy time with Geppetto for the brief span they have left.
What are your thoughts?
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