Numerous books have been written in a first-person narration, yet fewer movies have been directed from that same perspective. Nicollo Ammaniti’s I’m not scared does the job beautifully in the novel form, and thankfully, it tackles the challenge in the film adaptation as well; the director’s smartest move was to film the proceedings solely from the perspective of Michele. He does so by focusing primarily on Michele throughout the film, his emotions, reactions, and even the ways he registers what is around him.
The movie, however, does not put a heavy emphasis on Michele’s relationship with his father, thus making it difficult for the viewer to evaluate the strength and change in that bond. The main technique through which the director attempts to translate the first person narration is through the use of a single-perspective focus. The novel makes it quite clear that the narration is a first-person one, and the narrator is Michele. It is revealed early on with the line, “Then there was me, Michele” who the protagonist as well as the narrator is (Ammaniti 3).
In the film, it is evident that Michele is the protagonist of the story by the way in which the camera lingers on him the longest; it cuts to him to register his emotions in each situation. Moreover, the scenes where Michele watches the adults in the kitchen from hiding are carefully shot in a way that allows the audience to see only as much as Michele can see. We can watch what is happening in the kitchen from a narrow crack in the door that Michele is looking through as well.
This type of perspective furthermore emphasizes that the entire plot of the film is narrated by Michele, and it is from his perspective alone that we can experience the action. Because the story unravels from Michele’s point of view, the audience experiences how he deals with the new situation. The book shows Michele often creating vivid stories about his reality; in particular, he invents them to explain the existence of the boy in the hole. At one point, he believes that Filippo is his twin brother, but when they were born “papa had put him in a sack and taken him onto the hill to kill him” because he was crazy (62).
In the film, this is carried out by having Michele write his stories down under covers with a blanket but also reading them out loud. It gives the viewer a better sense of Michele’s interpretations of what is happening around him which are quite ordinary for a child; he finds the situation odd and fantastic, yet he copes with it by entertaining himself with absurd explanations. The reason why Michele creates these stories is because he cannot share his discovery with others or let them realize that he knows about the kidnapping.
When he notices a car while on his way to see Filippo, he is terrified that he will be discovered, and he hides thinking, “Not breathing. Not moving a muscle. Asking Baby Jesus not to let them see me” (64). This is evident in the movie by, again, showing only Michele’s perspective. The audience can see how scared and confused Michele is having no one to share his discovery with or seek the real reason behind the events. And because there is no other input to the situation, Michele’s view is the one that we are also left with.
Because the relationship between Michele and his father is emphasized differently in each medium, we are not able to see how Michele’s view of his father has changed in the film. It is clear in the novel; after his discovery, Michele sees his father in a different light and acknowledges that “Papa was the bogyman” (80). However, he can never quite picture him as one of the monsters; he actually tries to save his father from them in the final scene. Also in the end, their relationship is emphasized in the last lines, “And there was Papa.
And there was me” (200). However, in the film, this bond is not as pronounced. The movie puts Filippo and Michele’s unique relationship at its focus. It is most evident in the final scene as well. There is no ‘dad and me’; Michele in fact acknowledges Filippo and vice versa when they are trying to grasp their hands. Therefore, because this relationship is the main focus, we lose Michele’s battle of emotions over the morality of the father he admires that we have taken from the book.
From a distance, this novel may seem like a children’s book because of the heavy emphasis on kids as main characters. And while it certainly involves parents in somewhat background roles, it is never the adult perspective that interests us. I’m Not Scared told from Michele’s viewpoint presents a child at first too naive to perceive real danger but soon an individual whose adult life will be shaped by his discovery.
Ammaniti, Niccolo. I’m Not Scared. New York: Anchor, 2003. Print.