Mexican director Guillermo del Toro holding a model of Pinocchio in his hands. Photograph: Cr. mandraketheblack.de/NETFLIX © 2020 / Click to view the trailer.

I recently saw the new Disney adaptation of Pinocchio by director Robert Zemeckis in an exclusive premiere in the cinema. It was good.

But Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, the story of the wooden boy and his father Geppetto, does not resemble many earlier sugarcoated adaptations from 1940 to 2022: del Toro’s story is spiritual, gritty and grimy. If more than anything, it nods to The Adventures of Pinocchio, the original children’s book by Italian writer Carlo Collodi published in 1883.

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“Papa, there is something I don’t understand,” Pinocchio says to his father in one scene in a church. “Everybody likes him,” Pinocchio continues while pointing at the wooden Christ hanging on the cross above the altar.

“He’s made of the wood too, why do they like him and not me?”

Mexican director Guillermo del Toro is an auteur with a fascination for nightmarish images of light and dark. He tends to balance melancholy with warmth.

In his adaption of Pinocchio, del Toro also deals with subjects like rebirth, pain and suffering — the foundations of Buddhism. Del Toro mixes religious concepts with passion, which makes this stop-motion masterpiece touch the viewer’s soul deeply.

Stop-motion animation in which successive positions of objects are photographed to produce the appearance of movement, and the unpolished look of one of the favorite Disney characters, create a mind-blowing experience. At times you tend to forget to watch animation but real actors and characters instead.

This film should be watched with a clear head, all senses open and on a big-screen TV; too much popcorn can be a disturbance.

But be warned. You may come out as a slightly different person after shutting down the home theater.

‘Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio’ premieres on Netflix on December 9. Running time: 115 minutes.

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