I'm Not Scared

The True Story Behind the Acclaimed Italian Thriller “I’m Not Scared”

Gabriele Salvatores’ 2003 psychological thriller “I’m Not Scared” may be a work of fiction, but the dark tale of buried secrets in a small Italian village is inspired by a horrifying true event. The film, which is being rereleased on Blu-ray this month much to the delight of fans, is based on Niccolò Ammaniti’s acclaimed 2001 novel of the same name. But what many viewers may not know is that Ammaniti’s novel itself draws from the real-life case of the “Monster of Foligno,” which rocked Italy in the late 1990s.

In the mid-1990s, a serial killer named Luigi Chiatti abducted and killed two young boys in the small town of Foligno, Italy. The case, which became known nationwide as the “Monster of Foligno,” shocked Italians due to both the tender age of Chiatti’s victims and the brutal nature of the crimes. Though the details still turn the stomach to this day, Ammaniti incorporated elements of the horrific true story into his novel, changing the setting to a fictional rural village in Southern Italy in the late 1970s.

In the novel, nine-year-old Michele discovers a boy named Filippo chained at the bottom of a hole and bearing signs of abuse. Though fictional, the scenario undoubtedly mirrors aspects of Chiatti’s real captives. Like Chiatti’s young victims, Filippo is completely at the mercy of a violent captor keeping him hidden away from the outside world. By placing the discovery of the chained child in the 1970s, Ammaniti creates an unsettling period atmosphere that allows contemporary readers to feel both the nostalgia and lurking darkness of that era.

Salvatores’ faithful film adaptation transports viewers straight into this foreboding yet familiar world through stunning cinematography and powerful performances, notably from child actor Giuseppe Cristiano. Against the golden fields and crumbling structures of the Italian countryside, a story unfolds that exposes the secrets long buried in one seemingly ordinary village, not unlike what occurred in Foligno.

So when you watch this artfully rendered thriller, keep in mind the horrifying true case that inspired its most disturbing elements. Though executed masterfully on film, the root of this narrative originated from a real monster and the innocent lives he destroyed, the memory of which continues to haunt Italy today. Rediscover this acclaimed film with that chilling context in mind when it releases on Blu-ray on February 28, 2023.

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