Freaks Out, review: circus, superheroes and Nazis

Freaks Out, review: circus, superheroes and Nazis

Freaks Out, review

Freaks Out, the second feature film by Gabriele Mainetti, finally arrives in the room. The film tells the adventures of four circus artists, real freak phenomena with extraordinary skills and characteristics, during the occupation of Rome in 1943. The film, initially scheduled for December 2020 and postponed due to the pandemic, will be available in cinemas starting from 28 October 2021, after having won the Golden Lion at the last Venice Film Festival. This is an absolutely deserved recognition as the film offers 2 hours and 40 minutes of pure visionary spectacle capable of simultaneously paying homage to genre cinema and the masters of Italian cinema.

Freaks Out sees in its cast Claudio Santamaria (Fulvio), Aurora Giovinazzo (Matilde), Pietro Castellitto (Cencio), Giancarlo Martini (Mario), Giorgio Tirabassi (Israel), Max Mazzotta (Gobbo) and Franz Rogowski (Franz). The film is distributed by 01 Distribution and produced by Goon Films, Lucky Red, Rai Cinema and GapBusters. We had the opportunity to participate in the preview screening reserved for the press, below you can read our thoughts on one of the most anticipated Italian films of this season.

Freaks Out: the plot

Fulvio, Matilde, Cencio and Mario are four circus artists who perform at the Circo Mezza Piotta in Israel. The picturesque group wanders from city to city staging their own show in which the superhuman abilities of each of the freaks entertain and offer moments of escape for paying spectators.

Due to the difficulties due to the worsening of the world conflict and their condition as people on the margins of society, the company finds itself having to deal with reality and with the idea of ​​fleeing overseas in search of a new beginning in the land of the free. Israel thus leaves the four circus performers on the outskirts of Rome to go in search of the false documents necessary for their escape, however the impresario will never return. In disarray and without real alternatives, the four decide to venture themselves into the heart of a Rome occupied by the Germans, where we will meet Franz, the impresario of Zirkus Berlin, whose dream is to put together a handful of super men who will lead the Reich to victory.

Superheroes but in the Italian style (and that's not a bad thing)

Let's get things straight: we liked Freaks Out very much, a perfect movie. So let's try to put pen to paper the many positive aspects, but also what we believe is the biggest flaw of the film.

The greatest merit of Freaks Out is to finally bring to the screen a convincing and respectful superhero story of the stylistic features and canon of the genre narrative, resulting at the same time splendidly framed in the context and in the territory in which the narration takes place. The one staged by Mainetti is not the simple homework in which you try to make a mockery of a genre, with the risk of producing a clumsy and mediocre result. Mainetti is clearly at ease with the superhero theme, just think of his They called him Jeeg Robot (here you can find the blu-ray) which presented an unprecedented origin story of a Roman super vigilante, however in Freaks Out the superhero theme is even more central and explicit and from the beginning we are aware of the tracks that the narration will go through.

Here then is that the four freaks with their superpowers and their main antagonist, also with a not indifferent gift, they set up an exciting story against the backdrop of a very sumptuous postmodern circus, a little a la The Greatest Showman. The anachronistic element present in the film is a great tribute to contemporary and pop culture, it is used in a pleasant (and pleasant) way, amused but absolutely consistent with the narrative.

There are a number of influences and quotes which reflect on the whole atmosphere of the film: from the inevitable Tarantino (an inevitable comparison with Inglourious Basterds), but also comics authors such as Garth Ennis and his The Adventures of the Rifle Brigade. Despite the international influences in Freaks Out, Italian influences are also present and well represented, such as Fellini and Monicelli.

The ability to create a genre but Italian-style story gives a unique personality to this film, able to demonstrate that Italian cinema can also be something else by freeing itself again from the quintessential idea that Italian cinema intends primarily as an exercise in narrating the real dramatic, the likely, the bittersweet comedy and unfortunately also the cinepanettoni. Thus, in his pursuit of a definite and recognizable narrative choice, Mainetti, assisted once again in the screenplay by Nicola Guaglianone, gives life to a creature that is unequivocally Italian, like seminal genres such as polizziotteschi or spaghetti westerns.

After having praised this film, however, we must also underline, alas, a negative aspect of the film, which however does not affect our positive judgment on balance.

Like many contemporary films, Freaks Out also suffers of an excessive length, with a really long and at times confused final act, in representing the excited events at the conclusion of the story.


With Freaks Out Gabriele Mainetti stages a spectacular superhero adventure full of international and Italian influences and atmospheres. The film is characterized by an incredible personality, which combines knowledge and awareness of genre narration, capable of thrilling with its picaresque characters and with an unexpected but very pleasant tribute to pop culture.

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