IFFR Review: Freaks Out

Through the annals of history, people who are viewed as ‘different’, in some way, have never had it easy. Anyone suspected of possessing ‘special powers’ has been singled out and treated like something not quite human. If they happened to live at the ‘right time’, this could have meant being respected as a wise person or paraded as a fool. Those unfortunate enough to be around at the ‘wrong time’ would likely find themselves ostracised or, in some cases, burned at the stake. The stars of Freaks Out couldn’t have chosen a worse time or place.

As members of a halfpenny circus in fascist Rome, four of life’s outcasts can just about eke out a living. Matilde (Aurora Giovinazzo) can generate electricity, Fulvio (Claudio Santamaria) is a super-strong wolfman, Mario (Giancarlo Martini) is a human magnet while Cencio (Pietro Castellitto) can talk to insects. This troupe is run by the benevolent Israel (Giorgio Tirabassi), whose disappearance while trying to purchase transit papers throws them into disarray.

Freaks Out is a gutsy mix of historical drama and off-kilter science fiction thriller. The first half of Gabriele Mainetti’s film focuses on the dramatic elements, but as the pace races headlong towards the finale it’s the action which comes to the fore. Beautiful cinematography and great period design are augmented by Franz Rogowski’s crazed six-fingered Nazi bad-guy. Freaks Out feels like a superior X-Men film without the costumes and with a much stronger narrative.  

Freaks Out screens at International Film Festival Rotterdam.

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