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The ageing Italian aristocrat, Dame Alba d' Oltrevita ( Dame Lyda
Borelli ) would like to find a second youth. Remember in those early
days no one had any beauty secrets ( with the exception of Snow White's
). Dame Alba discovers a particular and special solution
for her beauty problems: a pact with the devil.
Herr Mephisto ( Herr Ugo Bazzini ) accepts but in exchange forbids her to fall in love ever, but this it seems doesn't matter to our Italian aristocrat because she is again young and beautiful. She is courted by two brothers, Tristano ( Herr Andrea Habay ) and Sergio ( Giovanni Cinni ).The last one threatens to kill himself if Dame Alba does not grant him her love but Dame Alba doesn't pay attention to him and chooses his brother, provoking Sergio's death.; She prepares to marry Tristano but the devil must have his due and Mephisto turns her into an old woman again.
"Rapsodia Satánica" is a beautiful film directed by Herr Nino Oxilia, who died before his time during the World War I; this is his most successful oeuvre, a film that belongs to those stylish melodramas made in Italy in the early silent days that gave prestige to the unique style of the film productions of that European country.
The film has a romantic atmosphere that fascinates immediately; delicate scenery and careful indoor settings as well as superb cinematography by Herr Giorgio Ricci. Let us not forget that part of the oeuvre was hand-coloured and that fact gives to the film a special sense of decadent and unreal feeling that fits perfectly with the story.
"Rapsodia Satánica", besides its classical invocations of the myth of eternal youth ( this ageing and wrinkled German aristocrat can't understand such nonsense ) has an idealistic but melancholy view of youth as little more than the most fleeting of situations, a passing hallucination. Adding to the film's power is the presence of one of the most important Italian divas of the early silent days, Dame Lyda Borelli in one of her first leading roles. In spite of her teeth showing, Dame Borelli's performance is outstanding for the delicacy and charm she brings to her character.
And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count has an appointment with Herr Methuselah.
Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien http://ferdinandvongalitzien.blogspot.com/
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Rapsodia satanica" is one of the most known silent film works from Italy and it has its 100th anniversary next year. The version I watched went on for 45 minutes, but there may be some lost scenes as the original is even longer or this one I saw just had more frames per second. Anyway, it was one of the latest efforts by Nino Oxilia, who died only in his 20s in World War I and was already a very prolific filmmaker at this point. The fate of most of the actors in this poem-based film wasn't much better. They may not have died early, but nobody from them managed a really successful transition from silent to sound film, especially not lead actress Lady Borelli who played her part well and was quite a star in Italy back then. The story is about an old woman who makes a deal with the Devil and becomes young again. Complication ensues when 2 men fall in love with her. So yes there is a touch of Mephisto and Faust in here for sure. Sadly, overall I did not find the watch rewarding enough. Keep in mind this is silent and black-and-white, so if you want the original feeling make sure you don't catch a copy that has sound or color added later. Or just don't watch it at all. Not recommended.
There are two things you can say in favor of this film: It has a cool
title - and it is mercifully short. The story is as trite as can be.
Prologue: Some old countess makes a deal with the devil: She receives
everlasting youth if she abjures love. Part one: Endless boring
"parties" - interminably we have to watch dancing and flower throwing
youths. Single small bit of plot: One of a pair of brothers falls in
love with her and shoots himself. Part two: Now we have to endure her
remorse in close ups and mid shots and in this gown and in that gown
and some more senseless flower throwing until the predictable end
releases us from this boredom.
The only somewhat interesting thing is the use of various coloring techniques: You get some green dresses, yellow butterflies in close-up and a red colored Mephisto. But the acting is mediocre and the direction is terrible: There is some unintended comedy now and then when Mephisto pops up like in a Punch and Judy show. But it's not hilariously bad enough to justify the waste of 45 minutes by watching this film.
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