Tale of Tales (2015 film)

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Tale of Tales
Il racconto dei racconti poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
ItalianIl racconto dei racconti
Directed byMatteo Garrone
Produced by
Written by
Based onPentamerone
by Giambattista Basile
Music byAlexandre Desplat
CinematographyPeter Suschitzky
Edited byMarco Spoletini
Distributed by
Release date
  • 14 May 2015 (2015-05-14) (Cannes/Italy)
  • 1 July 2015 (2015-07-01) (France)
  • 1 July 2016 (2016-07-01) (UK)
Running time
134 minutes
  • Italy
  • France
  • United Kingdom
Budget$14.5 million[2]
Box office$5.5 million[1][3]

Tale of Tales is a 2015 European fantasy film co-written, directed and co-produced by Matteo Garrone and starring Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, Toby Jones, and John C. Reilly.

An Italian-led production with co-producers in France and the United Kingdom, Tale of Tales is Garrone's only English-language film. It competed for the Palme d'Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.[4][5]

It is a screen adaptation based on collections of tales by Italian poet and courtier Giambattista Basile: Pentamerone or Lo cunto de li cunti (Tale of Tales, or Entertainment for Little Ones), which contains the earliest versions of famous fables like Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. The three tales are La Cerva Fatata (The Enchanted Doe), La Pulce (The Flea), La Vecchia Scorticata (The Flayed Old Lady), which have been freely adapted with elements of other tales by Giambattista Basile as well as a touch of artistic license.[6]


Alcantara river, location for the scenes with the aquatic dragon

In the kingdom of Longtrellis the King and Queen cannot conceive a child. A necromancer suggests that if the Queen eats a sea dragon's heart cooked by a virgin, she will become with child but this will cost a life. The King slays the sea dragon but dies from his wounds. The Queen eats the heart and the next day bears a son, Elias, with hair as white as the dragon. The cook also gives birth to a boy, Jonah. The boys are identical and inseparable friends. This vexes the Queen who attempts to murder Jonah. Jonah leaves the kingdom, plunging a knife into a tree root and telling Elias that as long as the root spouts clear water, he is alive and well. One day the water is clouded with blood. Elias leaves to find Jonah. The Queen has her subjects search for Elias to no avail. The necromancer blames the Queen and says the youths are truly inseparable, and that her violent desire can only be achieved through violence. Elias finds Jonah wounded in a cave. They are threatened by a monster which wounds Jonah but hesitates to attack Elias, who kills the monster and returns Jonah to his mother. In the cave, the monster's corpse dissolves into that of the Queen.

The King of Strongcliff's castle (Castle of Roccascalegna)

The lustful King of Strongcliff is intrigued by the sound of a woman's heavenly singing. He courts her outside her home, unaware that she is one of two elderly sisters, Imma and Dora. Dora agrees to spend the night with him as long as it is in complete darkness. He is horrified when he sees her appearance the next morning and has his guards throw her out of the window. She survives, entangled in the branches of a tree. A witch rescues her and nurses her from her breast. Dora awakens as a young, beautiful maiden. The King comes upon her while hunting and decides to make her his Queen. Dora invites Imma to the wedding and promises to take care of her, but says she cannot stay in the castle. Imma refuses to leave, asking for the secret to her sister's youth and beauty. In annoyance, Dora says she got herself flayed. Finally thrown out after violating the royal couple's privacy in their bedroom, Imma finds someone willing to flay her, leaving her bloody and disfigured.

Home of the King of Highhills and his daughter (Castel del Monte)

The King of Highhills becomes fascinated by a flea which he hides in his room as a pet. It grows gigantic under his care. When it dies, the King decides to skin it. His daughter Violet tells him she wants to be married, so he offers her as a bride to whoever can guess from what beast the skin was taken, believing no-one could do so. However an ogre correctly identifies the hide by smell. Violet is horrified but her father says he cannot go back on his word. Violet goes through with the marriage but says her father never loved her. The ogre takes Violet to his cave where she is raped and kept prisoner. A family of acrobats helps her to escape, but the ogre gives chase and kills the entire family. He is mollified by Violet who then slits his throat. Violet returns to the castle where the King has grown ill and reveals she has the head of the ogre, the husband he "chose" for her. The King falls to his knees crying and the courtiers follow suit. Violet, too, begins to cry.

Elias, Dora and the King of Strongcliff are among the guests for Violet's coronation as Queen. There, Elias nods to her and the King of Strongcliff. As Violet's father walks her to the throne the crowd looks skyward where an entertainer is walking a tightrope of fire. We see Dora's beauty begin to fade and, unnoticed, she flees the castle.


In an interview with Variety, director Matteo Garrone emphasized that the three tales have contemporary themes: "plastic surgery; the frenzied desire to have a child; the conflict between generations; the painful passage from adolescence to adulthood."[7] He has also said that although the three stories have distinct themes, they are all connected to the idea of desire that can lead to obsession. Although screenplays were written for other tales in the Basile collection, those filmed told the story of "a woman in three different stages of her life": youth, motherhood and advancing age.[8]


  • Salma Hayek as Queen of Longtrellis
  • Vincent Cassel as King of Strongcliff
  • Toby Jones as King of Highhills
  • John C. Reilly as King of Longtrellis
  • Shirley Henderson as Imma
  • Hayley Carmichael as Dora
  • Bebe Cave as Violet, Princess of Highhills
  • Christian Lees as Elias, Prince of Longtrellis.
  • Jonah Lees as Jonah
  • Laura Pizzirani as the virgin and Jonah's Mother
  • Franco Pistoni as Necromancer
  • Jessie Cave as Fenizia
  • Michael Martini as the 1st Circus Boy
  • Alessandro Campagna as the 2nd Circus Boy
  • Lorenzo Bernardi as Contortionist
  • Giselda Volodi as Lady-in-Waiting #1
  • Giuseppina Cervizzi as Lady-in-Waiting #2
  • Luisa Ragusa as Lady-in-Waiting #3
  • Kathryn Hunter as Witch
  • Guillaume Delaunay as Ogre
  • Davide Campagna as Circus Performer
  • Massimo Ceccherini as a Circus Artist Father
  • Alba Rohrwacher as a Circus Artist Mother



According to Matteo Garrone, he was drawn to Giambattista Basile's stories for their mix of the real and the unreal, and because he found the themes in many of them to still be highly relevant. Garrone had previously been best known for employing a naturalist style in films such as Gomorrah, but argued that all his previous films also have a fairytale aspect to their narratives.[2] An important source of inspiration was Francisco Goya's Los caprichos collection of etchings. For Garrone, they encapsulated the mood of Basile's tales.[9]

Tale of Tales had a budget corresponding to USD$14.5 million.[2] It was produced through Garrone's company Archimede Film, with co-production support from France's Le Pact and Britain's Recorded Picture Company. It received financing from Rai Cinema and additional support from MiBACT and Eurimages.[10]


Principal photography commenced on 15 May 2014 and lasted four months.[10] The film was shot entirely on location in various parts of Italy, including Naples (Royal Palace, Palace of Capodimonte and its gardens); Apulia's Castel del Monte (octagonal castle appears in the poster near Vincent Cassel), Gioia del Colle (in particular the throne room), Laterza, Mottola, Statte; Sicily's Donnafugata Castle (gothic castle, stone labyrinth and gardens) and Gole dell'Alcantara in Alcantara (mainly scenes of sea dragon); Abruzzo's Castello di Roccascalegna (appears in the poster with Castel del Monte); Tuscany's Moorish castle of Sammezzano, the towns of Sorano and Sovana (tuff caves); and Lazio (Bosco del Sasseto in Viterbo).[11][12][13][14][15][16][17] "The movie is an epic tribute to the history of fairytales with great care to the style of their portrayal. The very locations reflect the director’s intention to create an artificial truth, a realistic craftsmanship. All locations had to be real but look as if the settings had been recreated in a studio set."[18][2]


Critical reception[edit]

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 83% approval rating based on reviews from 105 critics, with an average rating of 7 out of 10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Visually splendid and narratively satisfying, Tale of Tales packs an off-kilter wallop for mature viewers in search of something different."[19] On Metacritic, the film has received a weighted average score of 72 out of 100 based on 24 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[20]


  1. ^ a b "Tale of Tales (2016)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 19 June 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ a b c d Vivarelli, Nick (15 May 2014). "Cannes: Italo Auteur Matteo Garrone Talks About His 'Tale of Tales' (Exclusive)". Variety. Retrieved 13 March 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ "Tale of Tales Foreign Gross (2016)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 19 June 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ "2015 Official Selection". Cannes. Retrieved 16 April 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ "Screenings Guide". Festival de Cannes. 6 May 2015. Retrieved 8 May 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ "Tale of Tales Movie Review". shockya.com.
  7. ^ "Cannes: How 'Game of Thrones' Influenced 'Tale of Tales'". Retrieved 14 May 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ Garrone, Matteo (Director) (2016). "Extras". Tale of Tales (DVD). United Kingdom: Fusion Media Sales (distributor). We wrote a screenplay for some other stories too, but in the end we chose to tell the story of a woman in three different stages of her life. We show a female perspective at three different stages. There are three distinct themes but they are all connected to the idea of desire that can lead to obsession.
  9. ^ Garrone, Matteo (Director) (2016). "Extras". Tale of Tales (DVD). United Kingdom: Fusion Media Sales (distributor). There are so many sources of inspirations... The first that comes to mind, and possibly the most important of all, were Goya's Los Caprichos. They were absolutely crucial although they date from around two centuries after Basile's. These etchings encapsulate the mood that I saw in Basile's tales, the coexistence of tragedy and comedy, the representation of deformed grotesque figures... and the relationship with human beings, with a body that can transform and take on animal traits... Goya's etchings were a crucial point of reference for us.
  10. ^ a b Scarpa, Vittoria (16 May 2014). "Shooting kicks off for Tale of Tales by Matteo Garrone". Cineuropa. Retrieved 13 March 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  11. ^ "The Tales of Tales 4 things of Garrone's magical movie". SWIDE.
  12. ^ "The Tale of Tales Official Trailer #1 2015, Cast, Released Date {2015} in France, Italy, UK, India". whatstheinfo. Archived from the original on 29 October 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  13. ^ "Il Racconto dei Racconti: scelte le location del prossimo film di Matteo Garrone con Vincent Cassel e Salma Hayek protagonisti". bestmovie.it.
  14. ^ "Garrone gira a Ragusa con un cast internazionale". La Repubblica.
  15. ^ "Sul set con Garrone: "Il mio kolossal fantasy, a Castel del Monte con Vincent Cassel"". La Repubblica.
  16. ^ "Il Racconto dei Racconti 2015". movieplayer.it.
  17. ^ "Shooting kicks off for Tale of Tales by Matteo Garrone". cineuropa.org.
  18. ^ Gabardi, Chiara. "Tale of Tales Movie Review". Shock ya!. Retrieved 20 November 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  19. ^ "Tale of Tales (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 22 April 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  20. ^ "Tale of Tales Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 22 April 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

External links[edit]