REVIEW / FILM REVIEW – After his excellent “We call him Jeeg Robot” released in 2017, Gabriele Mainetti is back with a new alternative superhero film: “Freaks Out”. An atypical feature film that takes place during the Second World War.
Freaks Out: the new proposal by Gabriele Mainetti
His name may mean nothing to you. Gabriele Mainetti is a 45-year-old Italian director who stood out, a few years ago, with We call him Jeeg Robot. Released in 2017, the feature film proved to be a critical success, with numerous prizes at the David di Donatello (the equivalent of Caesars in Italy), and financial with almost $6 million in worldwide box office receipts. Faced with this success, Gabriele Mainetti decided to stick to the superhero theme to offer a new quirky story on the subject. Like with jpeg robot his new film, Freaks Out focuses on shadow superheroes, who evolve in a realistic universe, devoid of masked vigilantes.
The plot takes place in Rome in 1943, during the Nazi occupation. The story follows a group of circus performers, possessing incredible fantastical powers. Matilda, Cencio, Fulvio, and Mario are forced to go to town to find work. Obviously, their destiny will lead them to oppose the Nazi regime despite themselves.
A new derivation of the superhero genre
Like with Jeeg robot, Gabriele Mainetti plays with the codes of the traditional superhero film. It thus takes up elements well known to aficionados of the genre. For example rejection by society, difficulty in accepting one’s condition and powers, the search for a greater purpose through the exploitation of superheroic abilities. As in his previous film, Gabriele Mainetti uses the style’s classic cliches to serve his narrative. What really changes these are the setting and the characters. It is indeed in its will to place itself during the Second World War that Freaks Out stands out from the usual productions.
Thus, he sets up an astonishing re-reading of 4 Fantastic, in Italy, and during the Second World War. It features a somewhat unusual quartet with, once again, the commonplaces of superhero movies. We thus find a parody of the Thing, here a hairy man with excessive strength; a female character looking for her place, personified by the young Matilda; and two messy male characters to complete the team. But there again, the shots are reversed since it is the man-beast who is the thinking head of the team.
The feature film also recalls Captain America, especially because of the context of the Second World War and the discovery of these heroes who can change the course of the conflict. As in Joe Johnston’s film, Gabriele Mainetti uses his fantastic characters to write an interesting retelling of World War II.
Freaks Out also refer to the saga X-Men. As in the cult comics of Stan Lee, the feature film by Gabriele Mainetti addresses the Jewish genocide. As in the Marvel stories, the artist focuses on the Holocaust and the deportation of the Jews, through superheroes, but in a more frontal way. Here too, these characters are persecuted singled out, and isolated for their powers, for their differences, but also because some of them are Jews. A skillful re-reading of the myth of X-Men.
Terry Gilliam for inspiration
But ultimately, the most marked influences are not on the side of comics and superheroes. With Freaks Out, Gabriele Mainetti also refers a lot to established artists like Guillermo Del Toro, Terry Gilliam, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. The first part of the carnival, whether by the staging or the almost identical writing, is obviously very reminiscent of the recent Nightmare Alley by Guillermo Del Toro.
The atmosphere, the characters, the poetic and filthy aesthetic but also the writing that is both magical and dramatic refer a lot to the cinema of these three authors. The characters’ offbeat powers (magnetism, insect control, etc.) are also subject to the inspirations of Terry Gilliam and his successors. The bizarre and fantastical tone is totally in line with the legacy of Terry Gilliam and therefore, a fortiori that of Guillermo Del Toro. As for this yellowish calibration difficult not to make the comparison with some of the works of Jean-Pierre Jeunet.