The original story "The Adventures of Pinocchio" was a children's novel by Italian writer Carlo Collodi. The story has been told and adapted many times, most famously as a Disney animated musical in 1940. Matteo Garrone has adapted the story as a live action film starring Roberto Benigni as Gepetto, the wood carver who makes a puppet called Pinocchio but wishes he was a real boy. Pinocchio's notable characteristic is that his nose grows longer when he lies. Like all good fairy tales, the story is aimed at children with elements of folklore, adventure and life lessons. For the score Garrone went to the Italian born and educated composer Dario Marianelli and, while Marianelli is a highly respected award-winning composer and a creative asset on any film project, it is easy to speculate that Garrone felt the composer might have some synergy with Italian culture and folk music.
Certainly the instrumentation has a strong folk feel to it with a handful of band instruments augmenting the traditional orchestral colours of woodwind and string section from the Roma Tre Orchestra. The opening "Once Upon a Time" starts with guitar accompanying a simple melody on a recorder or wooden flute, before a range of additional sounds come from the likes of clarinet and accordian. "Birth of a Puppet" has clarinet, celeste and flute offering a few magical moments over suspended strings, before the guitar, accordian and melody return from the opening track, and it then becomes clear that this simple yet engaging melody is Pinocchio's Theme. "Pinocchio Runs Away" has a piano playing a related melody with tremolo chords. By now the general sound palette is also well established as a transparent one with generally only a handful of instruments playing at any one time though sometimes with strings. "The Puppet Theatre" then firmly establishes the piano as a theatre piano rather than a concert grand, playing tremolos again.
While the opening tracks have a certain magical fairy tale character, "The Fox and the Cat" has a darker element with a klezmer feel to the clarinet, though still very much in fairy tale mode. "The Night of the Assassins" maintains the darker character with plenty of percussion and instrumental trills. "My father, if you were here..." begins with a deep double bass growl though a wordless voice brings a sad tone. "Lies have Long Noses" introduces some chirping woodwind very much in the vein of Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf before some human whistling picks up the folk melody nad the wordless voice returns. Other tracks bring in harp and harmonica to augment the folk palette e.g. "Pinocchio Turns into a Donkey". The music continues wafting through your consciousness with this established melodic and orchestral basis. Although the tone varies over his different adventures you come away feeling that Pinocchio is ultimately a tragic character. The album is nicely rounded off by the song "Step by Step" (or "Passo Passo") sung by Petra Magoni and delicately woven with the Pinocchio Theme.
For this score Marianelli clearly subscribes to the 'Less is More' philosophy, and his fairy tale instrumentation and melodic folk character are pitch perfect. It is very refreshing to hear a score so far removed from the traditional hollywood sound, and Marianelli's score has a wonderful magical quality which draws you in to character and story. The soundtrack album has been produced by Air-Edel Records and is available to stream and download from many services including these links at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.