Today is Father's Day in America and the TV listings indicate that a number of favorite films depicting fathers will be aired. The relationship between a father and his children is one of the most frequently used themes in world literature and drama.
We find it in ancient epic poems like the Odyssey and the Aeneid. Jesus dealt with if in the famous parable of the Prodigal Son. Shakespeare Hamlet is based on the hero's loss of his father, and King Lear explores the relationship of a father with his three daughters. Dostoyevsky's great novel "the Brothers Karamazov" is all about a father and his sons.
One of my favorite depictions of the relationship of a father and his son is in the great Italian classic, Pinocchio, written in the late nineteenth century by Carlo Collodi. It immediately became a huge hit in Italy and its worldwide popularity continues to the present day. In the story the father, the carpenter Gepetto, actually carves a puppet out of wood although it is a very unusual piece of wood that seems to have a mind of its own.The bachelor carpenter views the puppet as his own son but almost immediately the son takes off on a series of wild adventures.
About fifteen years ago Roberto Benign, the great Italian comedian, directed his own version of the story that far exceeded the older Disney version. It was a huge hit in Italy but was not well received in America. Critics panned it and it was not helped by a dubbed version that could not include Benign's great comic voice.
Maybe the American public couldn't stomach a Pinocchio that was so far removed from Disney's darling little puppet boy. After all, Carlo Collodi's original Pinocchio is the Italian Huck Finn. He is an impudent, mischievous rascal who refuses to be tamed or civilized and can never stay out of trouble no matter whom he betrays or hurts. On his first day after being fashioned into a puppet, Pinocchio runs away from home, gets Gepetto thrown into jail, and smashes a pedantic little cricket (Disney's famous Jiminy Cricket) with a hammer for presuming to give him good advice.
Fortunately, this great film is available on DVD or youtube but it is important to view the original Italian language version with subtitles. I 've watched the Italian version with grandchildren and they loved it. I’ve shown it to groups of educated seniors and they’ve loved it.
The touching reunion of father and son is one of the highlights of the film. Here is a link to a brief video of their reunion. Pinocchio has just been swallowed by a huge fish and discovers that Gepetto has also been swallowed while searching for his wayward and long lost son. Or see below for the clip.