I'm Not Scared

April, 2004, Thriller

Directed by:Gabriele Salvatores

Starring:Giuseppe Cristiano, Mattia Di Pierro, and Aitana Sánchez-Gijón

Don’t be put off by the title; this riveting thriller set in rural Italy manages to be both exciting and wonderfully evocative of the way the world looked when we were trusting 10 year-olds. Handsomely shot and flawlessly acted, Scared doesn't frighten--it seduces with luminous simplicity.

When Michele, (the young protagonist in this adaptation by Niccolo Ammaniti of his novel by the same name) makes the startling discovery that launches this compulsively-watchable movie, you'll be tempted to think that director Gabriele Salvatores (Mediterraneo) has lured his audience into an allegory, so astounding is the youngster's reaction to what he's found. (To say more about the plot would destroy the impact of those first few minutes of the film and considerably lessen its appeal.) But the very best part about this movie lies in its ingenious point of view.

As Salvatores piles one tiny fact upon another, his audience comes to realize they've crawled inside the mind of the gentle Michele so that what we see is the world as he sees it; the hazing abuse of tougher kids, the casual gruffness of neighborhood adults, the push-pull of parental affection from Mom and Dad, who obviously love their son despite the circumstances in which they live. Set in southern Italy in the early 1970's, Scared spends considerable time in establishing the stunning beauty of remote wheat fields that appear somehow cut off from the rest of the rural area in which the action takes place. No town or village appears to provide a sense of location, no road seem to connect the small collection of shabby homes surrounding Michele's own to anything located elsewhere. Only flickering images from an old T.V. set suggest that the outside world exists at all.  Yet this physical isolation plays a crucial part in the unfolding story even as it allows the director to visually convey the extent to which any youngster's grasp of what lies beyond the horizon is foreshortened by virtue of his limited experience of it.

A new friendship is formed, old ones are shattered by broken confidences, mysteries are slowly unfolded as ominous threats are made; all the stuff of the quintessential thriller--Salvatores and his pitch-perfect cast tantalizingly reveal what really happened while daring the audience to determine how it'll all turn out--and you won't know until the very last shot. 

It's only after you leave the theater that you realize how thoroughly the director has invoked the haunting experience of being young again. 

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