• Golden Globe Awards

Freaks Out (Italy)

A comic-book movie-style super-hero fantasy made in Italy, Freaks Out is Bel Paese’s answer to the Marvel and DC Comics extravaganzas. Not coincidentally, it’s the Italian film with the greatest number of VFX in the history of this country.
Gabriele Mainetti’s second film, following his phenomenal debut with Jeeg Robot five years ago, Freaks Out is a comic fantasy set in the past, at the time of the Nazi occupation of Rome. Four circus performers, each with a different set of unusual attributes, combine their strengths to fight the Nazis. One is Fulvio (played by Italian star Claudio Santamaria, lead in Jeeg Robot) a man-wolf covered with hair; then there’s Mario, the magnet-man (Giancarlo Martini); Matilde (Aurora Giovinazzo), the “electric” girl; and Cencio (Pietro Castellitto) the insect guy. The group is brought together by Israel (Giorgio Tirabassi), the owner of their circus, a Jewish artist who dreams of the “promised land” and a better future for himself and his cohorts.
Their plan is threatened by a crazy German pianist, Franz (Franz Rogowski), with six fingers and very little heart, constantly under the influence of ether, who sees the future and intends to change it: in his plan, Germany will not lose the war and Hitler won’t die. A battle of the giants will ensue in this extravagant Italian epic which runs for 141 minutes.
Mainetti, 44, born in Rome, mixes real facts with imaginary tales, creating a short circuit between the fantastical and the historical. Against the nightmare vision of a triumphant Nazism, the writer/director pits four unlikely heroes, starving actors and performers, humble souls equipped with super-hero powers.
The film, referred to as the first “spaghetti superhero movie”, Freaks Out was filmed with a budget of about $15 million in 2018 on various locations in the Italian regions of Calabria, Abruzzo, and Lazio, with many sound stage set-ups in Rome. The film went through a long post-production and special FX process before debuting with much acclaim at the Venice Film Festival in September 2021, where it won eight awards, including Rogowski as Best Actor, Mainetti as Best Director/Producer, Maurizio Corridori for Best Special Effects and Aurora Giovinazzo as Best New Young Actress. The film opened successfully in theaters in Italy and Europe on October 28, 2021.
To Mainetti, the main inspiration for Freaks Out came not so much from the comic-book or graphic-novel universe as from the films of Sergio Leone. “I have inherited Leone’s typical Roman irony,” he says, “a vantage point that allows me to work on different levels, making the film accessible to ready laughter as well as to the ‘higher’ painful experience of something as tragic as World War II. But I was also informed by the light comedy of Mario Monicelli and the historical accuracy and visual grandeur of Steven Spielberg.”
Freaks Out was written by Mainetti with Nicola Giaglianone. The two brought different perspectives at the beginning of the project, resulting originally in some conflicts. “I wanted to make a war movie,” Mainetti explains; “while Nicola was insisting on a tale about freaks with superpowers. So, we sat in my chaotic office in Rome and brainstormed, and at the end we agreed and resolved: ‘Well, why don’t we make a movie about freaks set during World War II?’ And that’s how it all started. I think we’ve made something that has never been seen in Italy before.”