Year:  2021`

Director:  Gabriele Mainetti

Release:  July 7 - 17, 2022

Running time: 141 minutes

Worth: $16.00
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

Aurora Giovinazzo, Claudio Santamaria, Pietro Castellitto, Giancarlo Martini, Franz Rogowski, Giorgio Tirabassi

... the audacity and style of the filmmakers help to make Freaks Out a gratifying watch.

It might be assumed that a film with a bunch of circus freaks and Nazis (both with superpowers), as well as a gang of amputee partisans might be a bit ironic, with a nudge and a wink to the audience. Now, that wouldn’t be subversive.

Freaks Out plays it very straight, sincere, almost in the vein of a neo-realist war film, though admittedly, a heightened one. The gist is that four Italian circus performers, seemingly left in the lurch by their ringleader, decide to join the Zircus Berlin, which is headlined by the erratically psychotic Franz, (Franz Rogowski). Our special quad are Fulvio (Claudio Santamaria), a grumpy, super-strong Chewbacca who can bend metal; Cencio (Pietro Castellitto), a weedy insect overlord; Mario (Giancarlo Martini), a magnetic, masturbating dwarf; and the heart of the film, Matilde (Aurora Giovinazzo), a young orphan who can command electricity.

The film starts by cleverly showing us each performer’s act under a big top on the outskirts of Rome, just before their workplace is demolished by (presumably) Allied bombs. As the troupe move towards the city, their kindly leader, Israel (Giorgio Tirabassi), convinces them to give him 300 Lira each so he can go into Rome to pay for their passage to the USA. When he doesn’t return, Fulvio, Cencio and Mario, assuming he’s done a runner with their cash, head for the famous Nazi circus to find work. Matilde believes in Israel and suspects that he’s been snatched due to his Jewish heritage. There’s a fantastic scene around this time where the crew stumble upon a round-up of Jews and the three guys are thrown into the trucks. It doesnt work out too well for the Germans and ultimately, this is a satisfyingly violent example of how their powers can be put to good use, but the scene also depicts the nasty fervour of Italy’s supposed ally. Can’t hurt to be reminded.

It’s an odd balancing act that second time director, Gabriele Mainetti pulls off here. There’s the fantasy element, combined with crude humour and ludicrous stunts (human cannonball, anyone?), sharing the screen with the horrors of WWII and Nazism, replete with torture, medical experimentation (à la Josef Mengele) and ‘deportations’. Yet Mainetti and co-writer Nicola Guaglianone keep all the plates spinning just about right, with the only misstep perhaps the number of new characters introduced in the disabled partisan group. The cast are uniformly top-notch, even if Rogowski milks his six-fingered soothsayer role for all it’s worth. Of course, the honkingly obvious symbolism of freaks representing the Jews (and other minorities) of Europe doesn’t require much cognisance, and the tone of the film is slightly cloying but the audacity and style of the filmmakers help to make Freaks Out a gratifying watch.


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