January 25, 2005 -- “I'm Not Scared” (Io non ho paura) is an exquisitely-made Italian film about a young boy confronted by terrible evil. The story is set in 1978 and it is reportedly loosely based on a true story, but it is timeless and universal. Based on Niccol Niccolòo Ammaniti's novel of the same name, the film is directed by Gabriele Salvatores.
A slow-moving, but tense drama, the movie is told completely from a child's point of view, and it is conveyed with a minimum of dialogue. A 10-year-old boy who lives in rural southern Italy, Michele (Guiseppe Cristiano), spends his carefree summers riding his bike through endless wheat fields. One day, he finds a young boy about his own age, Filippo (Mattia Di Pierro) trapped in the bottom of a hole. The boy has been chained to a stake. Michele begins to sneak food and water to the starving boy, and becomes his only friend in this hostile environment. Michele eventually discovers who is involved in the kidnapping of this young boy. He is forced to confront a terrible moral dilemma.
In the end, Michele has to make a decision about what to do with this boy he has found. His solution involves a good deal of risk for both boys. The film gradually works up to a high level of suspense. The performances are excellent by everyone. Much of the power of the film comes from wonderful location photography by Italo Pettriccione (“Mediterraneo”). This is because most of the story is told in images, not by dialogue. Pettriccione also uses quite a few point-of-view shots, further enhancing the film's ability to show us a child's point of view in the same way the classic film “To Kill a Mockingbird” did decades ago. Few movies evoke the wonder and terror of childhood as this film does. It is a near-masterpiece. This film rates a B+.
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