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Dante's Inferno (1911)

L'Inferno (original title)
Loosely adapted from Dante's Divine Comedy and inspired by the illustrations of Gustav Doré the original silent film has been restored and has a new score by Tangerine Dream.

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(poem)
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Cast

Cast overview:
Salvatore Papa ...
Arturo Pirovano ...
Giuseppe de Liguoro ...
Pier Delle Vigne ...
Augusto Milla ...
Attilio Motta
Emilise Beretta
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Storyline

The poet Dante is lost in a dark and gloomy wood. At the summit of a mountain he sees the light of salvation. He endeavors to ascend to it, but his way is barred by three wild beasts, symbolizing Avarice, Pride and Lust. Beatrice sees his predicament and descends from Paradise into Limbo, where she asks the poet Virgil to rescue and guide Dante. Virgil knows another way to go, but this leads straight through the entire Inferno, before it continues towards Paradise. Virgil leads Dante to the portals of Inferno. Charon ferries them over the river Acheron, and then they start their journey downwards through the different circles of Inferno. Dante meets all kind of sinners and sees the never-ending punishments they have to undergo. The various punishments are adjusted to the different transgressions. Among the sinners Dante recognizes many persons he has met in Florence, when they were still alive. They tell him their sad stories and why they have ended here. At last Dante and Virgil ... Written by Maths Jesperson {maths.jesperson1@comhem.se}

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Release Date:

July 1911 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Dante's Inferno  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

According to "The People's Almanac Guide to the 20th Century", this is the very first movie to ever show male front nudity, well over half a century before it turned up again in Women in Love (1969). See more »

Goofs

The scene where Dante is chased by the dog and encounters Virgil. The thin wire lead which is being used to control the dog is visible at the left of the scene. See more »

Connections

Featured in Kingdom of Shadows (1998) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Epic Adaptation
28 August 2009 | by See all my reviews

This was a gigantic production for the time. Its use of sets and hour-plus runtime would help influence the movie-making industries on both sides of the Atlantic to produce longer and more epic films. Additionally, the film-making here isn't bad for 1911 standards, but besides the sets and narrative, it's still basic even for then. The superimposition and stop-substitution trick effects had been in films since nearly the beginning of the medium. And, the tableau style this film adopts, where lengthy title cards describe proceeding action was already becoming outdated. "L'Inferno" contains barely any scene dissection (there's two insert shots I recall, and the one that isn't of Lucifer is of awkward continuity); scenes are one continuous, usually unmoving long-shot view. For comparison, this film was released the same year as D.W. Griffith's "The Lonedale Operator"; the difference in the use, or lack thereof, of the camera, editing and intertitles between the two films is striking. Griffith wasn't the only one to have used varied camera positions, dissected scenes and used crosscutting and continuity editing to make his narratives more cinematic, either.

This is one of the earliest feature-length films to last at least an hour and seems to be the earliest that has survived to this day and been available on video in near complete form. (According to "Dante on View", by Antonella Braida and Luisa Calè, a couple scenes are in the wrong order and another few may be missing.) Even more impressive, however, are the sets by Francesco Bertolini and Sandro Properzi. Production values were already important to the success of the short films in Italy, as evidenced by "Nero" (1909), one of the few earlier Italian films generally accessible today, but they shy in comparison to those on display here. Milano took over production of adapting the first part of Dante's Divine Comedy from another company in 1909 and didn't complete it until 1911. Supposedly, the film cost more than 100,000 lire ("Dante, Cinema & Television"). For comparison, "Cabiria" (1914) supposedly cost 1 million lire (multiple sources) and "Quo Vadis?" (1912/13) cost 48,000 lire (Vernon Jarratt, "Italian Cinema")—all large sums for their time, reportedly. Like "Cabiria" and "Quo Vadis?", "L'Inferno" was also quite successful; in the US, ticket prices went for as high as $2.50 ("Dante on View"), and the film was the first to pave an American market for feature-length films through roadshow bookings and states rights distribution--a system, which for a time, coexisted with the Nickelodeon programs.

This film, of course, is dated. Yet, compared to other early literary/theatrical features, this one holds up rather well. With the help of the sets, the bare plot of Dante's work remains involving and, at least, visually interesting, despite the static camera. The three flashback scenes are also well placed.


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