I'm Not Scared

  • 2003
  • 1 HR 41 MIN
  • R
  • Crime, Drama

Set in parched, impoverished Southern Italy in 1978, Gabriele Salvatores' adaptation of Niccolo Ammaniti's literary coming-of-age thriller seethes with a potent sense of restrained but poisonous menace. Ten-year-old Michele Amitrana's (Giuseppe Cristiano) world is a small one: A cluster of sun-baked houses optimistically called Acqua Traverse, miles from...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Set in parched, impoverished Southern Italy in 1978, Gabriele Salvatores' adaptation of Niccolo Ammaniti's literary coming-of-age thriller seethes with a potent sense of restrained but poisonous menace. Ten-year-old Michele Amitrana's (Giuseppe Cristiano) world is a small one: A cluster of sun-baked houses optimistically called Acqua Traverse, miles from the nearest real town, and five families whose isolation is relieved only by the occasional visit from a traveling peddler. Michele's mother (Aitana Sanchez-Giton) struggles to make ends meet while her husband, Pino (Dino Abbrescia), is absent for months on end, scrounging for work in more prosperous regions. Michele, his little sister, Maria (Giulia Matturro), and his friends Teschio (Fabio Tetta), Salvatore (Stefano Biase), Remo (Fabio Antonacci) and Barbara (Adriana Conserva) roam the rolling wheat fields, ride their battered bicycles and make up contests to pass the scorching days that bleed together like hazy dreams. The beginning of the end of Michele's austere but sheltered childhood is marked by his discovery of a carefully concealed hole near an abandoned farmhouse. At the bottom of the hole, a child's pale, motionless foot sticks out from under a dirty blanket. Michele thinks he has discovered a corpse, but the truth is more disturbing still: A filthy, half-naked boy his own age is imprisoned in the hole, chained to the wall by one ankle. As Michele cautiously befriends the captive, Filippo (Mattia Di Pierro), the film's vague horror-movie atmosphere dissolves into something more mundane but equally — if not more — disquieting. Filippo has been kidnapped and every adult Michele knows, from Salvatore's scary older brother (Giorgio Careccia) to Michele's own father, is complicit in the crime. Salvatores is best known in the U.S. for his Oscar-winning MEDITERRANEO (1992), a sunny antiwar fable, but this is a far darker affair, as haunting as THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955) or FORBIDDEN GAMES (1952) in its exploration of childhood innocence lost. Although set in the 1970s, when a wave of kidnappings-for-profit swept Italy, Michele's disillusionment unfolds in the eternal present of isolated childhood; the outside world is so remote that it could as easily be two decades earlier or later. Salvatores draws strikingly unsentimental performances from his young actors, all making their film debuts, and juxtaposes the petty meanness of children with the calculated cruelty of desperate adults to haunting effect. (In Italian, with subtitles)

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  • Released: 2003
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Set in parched, impoverished Southern Italy in 1978, Gabriele Salvatores' adaptation of Niccolo Ammaniti's literary coming-of-age thriller seethes with a potent sense of restrained but poisonous menace. Ten-year-old Michele Amitrana's (Giuseppe Cristiano)… (more)

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