2020 Film Reviews

London Film Festival Review: Damiano and Fabio D’Innocenzo’s ‘Bad Tales’

Bad Tales - Favolacce

Damiano and Fabio D’Innocenzo’s second feature, Bad Tales, is morbidly curious and content to simmer in its own pessimism. Set within Rome’s suburbia community, located between the sea and city, the film centers on the havoc endured by different families across one summer. It is partly a bitter social comedy with a depressing anonymous monologue from a man telling a diary story that is both melancholic and nostalgic. A sea change to previous Italian arthouse pieces, Bad Tales maintains an ambiguous narrative tone to keep the viewer engaged. 

Told through the eyes of children and adults, Bad Tales follows a series of unfortunate events. Twelve-year-old Dennis (Tommaso Di Cola) has a father with an unrelenting temper and a taunting younger sister. He endures screaming matches during dinner when he chokes on his food, and attempts to understand the motivations of his flirty and pregnant 20-year-old neighbor. In many ways, Bad Tales is a commentary on the hardships of life and the consequences of personal decisions. The children are dealt the most brutal hand, expected to endure the collateral damage of their parent’s actions. Incidentally, they in turn allow the chaos to manifest.  

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Bad Tales - Favolacce

The pre-teens have conversations about sex as if it were normal for their age, almost pleased at themselves for sounding mature. However, they don’t really understand sex whatsoever. At a party, two fathers spout vile comments about how they would sexually abuse a neighbor’s wife, and Dennis scrolls through porn sites on his father’s phone with a friend. A girl celebrating her birthday smiles at whatever gifts she receives to appease the reputations of her parents, and a mother later encourages her daughter to contract measles from a local kid so they can have a play date together.

Bad Tales’ cinematography reflects the hazy warm afternoons of rural Italian summers. The camera perches on balconies — allowing for a bird-like perspective of a brawl unfolding — and also focuses in on the actions of young female characters. It feels unwilling to enter the situation, and keeps viewers at a distance. The warm, boiling color palette reflects both the blossoming interests of the children and the parents’ lack of guidance. These heated tones generally blur the women into the background, but there are shots that intrude upon the pregnant neighbor’s figure, tracing around her veined stomach and breasts; a commentary about the lack of privacy women are afforded during pregnancy.

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Bad Tales - Favolacce

With Bad Tales, the D’Innocenzo brothers present a series of cruel episodes with no emotional catharsis. They are bold in their ambition, and unafraid of upsetting the audience. Bad Tales is evocative of Amelie’s early scenes, however it’s very much a cruel cinematic sibling.

Elle Haywood (@ellekhaywood) is a freelance film/culture writer, festival juror and submissions reviewer. She is currently an Associate Editor at Take One and studying a Masters at the National Film & Television School. Her work specialises in international festivals focusing on Scandinavia and Western Europe, sociopolitical events and independent filmmaking.