This fabulously strange fantasy tells three twisted fables starring Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel and Toby Jones.
Depicting a world of kings and princesses, witches and dragons, sorcerers and ogres, this movie is far, far away from the likes of fairy-tale Disney’s sugar-spun realm.
A barren queen (Hayek) gives birth to a son after eating the heart of a sea monster, the singing of an unseen woman arouses the passions of a licentious king (Cassel) and a self-indulgent ruler (Jones) develops an obsession with a giant flea with fateful consequences for his young daughter (Bebe Cave).
The tales are fabulously strange, but Italian director Matteo Garrone gives them a gorgeously grotesque realism, the weirdness grounded by the striking use of real locations. What makes the film so compelling, though, is its core of emotional truth. It isn’t magic spells or enchantments that drive each of the tales (three of the 50 collected by 17th-century Neapolitan courtier Giambattista Basile), but recognisable real human feelings.
The characters may be fairy-tale figures, but their desires – a child, for youth and beauty and for adulthood and independence – are just like ours.