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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 17.54%
Average: 10.53%
Pretty Bad: 10.53%
Total Crap: 0%

6 reviews, 21 user ratings

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I'm Not Scared
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by Collin Souter

"It's a strange world"
5 stars

I am often told that I see way too many movies and I am often in agreement. I make no apologies for spending so much time watching them and I consider it to be a part of my life that will never change. Sometimes, movies themselves remind me that I’ve seen too many and that too many movies exist in the same moral universe. As rampant movie watchers, we have grown accustomed to characters—namely, protagonists—who make blunders, but still abide by the same moral structure as many of us do. We root for characters to do the right thing and, eventually, we walk out satisfied with the outcome (or at least, we’re meant to). Liars, traitors and thieves need not be rewarded. Easy for me to say.

I don’t live in the same world as those in “I’m Not Scared,” or at least I don’t think I do. Unlike the inhabitants of Gabriele Salvatores’ movie, I live in the comfy suburbs of Chicago surrounded by positive role models, both in real life and in movies. If I found a kidnapping victim on the streets, I would know to notify the authorities as soon as possible. That’s the kind of decision maker I am and I believe we define ourselves by the decisions we make. My decisions don’t necessarily make me a better or worse person than someone else who might make a different decision, it just makes me who I am.

The characters in “I’m Not Scared” live in the middle of nowhere, forgotten, not often susceptible to outside influences. They live in Sardinia, Italy, where kidnappings often take place in order to retrieve a hefty ransom. The movie sets up its moral compass with a scene in which a young girl must first humiliate herself if she wants to hang out with the rest of the kids in the area. Our ten-year old male protagonist, Michele (Giuseppe Cristiano), watches as she succumbs to another kid’s request to reveal her private parts to everyone. We wait for Michele to jump in and put a stop to this, but he doesn’t. He sees it as just another means of survival. You want something here? You better have something to give.

Michele lives with his little sister and parents in a tiny shack of a town surrounded by vast, gorgeous fields of wheat that stretch far into the horizon. One day, Michele comes across a hole in the ground covered by sheet metal. He lifts it up out of curiosity and finds the hole goes down about fifteen feet. He doesn’t see much at first, but a closer investigation reveals the leg of a young boy. It moves. Michele doesn’t attempt to confront it. He doesn’t tell a soul about it. Instead, he keeps it to himself and considers it the greatest secret of them all. So much so, he ends up using it as a bargaining chip.

I’m not giving anything away by saying that Michele finds a victim of a kidnapping, a boy his age named Filippo (Mattia Di Pierro), who has been living in that hole for who knows how long. He is dirty, disheveled and damn near blind, or so it would seem. The two kids form a truly believable bond based on trust, but will eventually become a bond based on something more tangible and much closer to the both of them. I’m stopping the plot synopsis there because I would rather people see this movie not knowing anything going in.

The characters who come into play as the film unfolds reveal a town, a world, where people will stop at nothing to be at the winning end of a good bargain. The kidnapping—the ultimate trade-off—is used as a backdrop for a much bigger story, that of a one human being’s estimation of another and how an act of cruelty reveals something unthinkable beneath the surface. Yet, the questions that arise from this predicament also reveal much about the characters’ view of the situation itself. When Michele learns more about the boy trapped in the hole, he does not ask, “How could you do such a thing?” Instead, he asks, “Why a hole? I don’t get it.” Like everything else in this town, the answer does not come cheap.

In fact, some of the answers may downright frustrate you as they did me. I watched “I’m Not Scared” unsure about whether or not I bought into it. Some of the actions made little sense to me at the time. Upon reflection, I realized that the actions, no matter how odd they may appear, move consistently with the characters as they had been set up to us early in the film. We see everything through Michele’s eyes and through those eyes we can only see a world off balance. I don’t remember being able to make a lot of sense out of the actions of adults when I was Michele’s age either.

I do remember playing in abandoned houses and playing Red light/Green light with my friends. Director Salvatores and screenwriters Niccolo Ammaniti and Francesca Marciano have a good sense of nostalgia for such childhood antics. “I’m Not Scared” is a coming of age film, one in which we see another view of the world open up before the eyes of innocent Michele. Ezio Bosso and Pepo Scherman’s exquisite score combined with Italo Petriccione’s stunning cinematography displays Sardinia as a vast, quiet, breathtaking and haunting world of possibilities, yet if one were to find that tiny spot of ugliness camouflaged within the surface, one could very well be drawn to that as well.

In many ways, Salvatores accomplishes many of the same feats David Lynch did with “Blue Velvet.” Both films convey the innocence of youth while diving head first into the dark underbelly of humanity. Both movies feature protagonists who have a fondness for secrets, which cause them to act in ways the rest of us probably would not. Both movies are moving, scary, funny and wise. Both movies leave you slightly in the dark about what kind of movie you just watched. Who really gets saved here? What am I to take from this? How come these characters don’t do what other characters in other movies do? And why do I watch so many of those movies? Because I’m always hoping they will turn out to be as daring, challenging and beautiful as “I’m Not Scared.”

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originally posted: 04/28/04 22:30:38
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Brisbane Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Brisbane Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Minneapolis/St.Paul Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Minneapolis/St.Paul Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/08/09 brian "Stand by Me" with an Italian accent, but not derivative. 4 stars
1/17/09 Shaun Wallner Pure Entertainment! 5 stars
1/03/08 Kaiser Nice, superb and I continued till the end 5 stars
9/26/06 pixie I watched it with my italian class and it was a fantastic movie that has a great p 5 stars
9/13/05 ray mero Transcendant movie...Hollywood is incapable of this kind of work. 5 stars
6/06/05 samira Beautiful wonderful movie!!! 5 stars
2/16/05 H Albanese I enjoy Films with an Italian Heritage- I will watch this again 5 stars
11/09/04 Paul Boyle Excellent 5 stars
11/08/04 Jack Galloway Beautiful movie. At once tender, warm, tense and exciting. Photographically superb. 5 stars
10/05/04 Gerardo Ferracane Excellent, even better than Mediterraneo 5 stars
7/18/04 Cassandra Farrar disturbing, but fascinating 4 stars
6/11/04 susan excellent, one of the best I've seen 5 stars
6/01/04 Jane Beautiful...Moving...I highly recommend it! 5 stars
5/20/04 Puspa Allamanda I enjoyed it 5 stars
5/19/04 Marlon watch this M. Knight Shamalamdingdong 5 stars
5/16/04 Tea a very emotional, powerful movie. excellent 5 stars
5/12/04 Anna Sannito I enjoyed it 4 stars
5/08/04 de it reminds me of the childhood and those dreams and peaceful life, but just can't go back 5 stars
5/03/04 Ray Super!!! 5 stars
5/03/04 Cesarina Horing Stupendo 5 stars
4/10/04 Monster W. Kung Good movie... 4 stars
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  DVD: 12-Oct-2004



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