Dante's Inferno (2007)
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This isn't the INFERNO as Dante wrote it. Dante has been completely modernized; Hell resembles Los Angeles, the punishments aren't quite what you remember, and the people populating Hell are now familiar faces (Ronald Reagan, Strom Thurmond, Condoleeza Rice). There's also a good dose of Monty Python and Mike Judge in the black humor that drenches every scene.
And while the take has its own novelty, what really elevates the film from good to great is the consistently enjoyable animation. The use of hand-operated paper cut-out puppets is wonderful. The care that has gone into crafting the sets and characters themselves is quite impressive indeed.
Of course, you should know this film has no insights to speak of. This gives a very surface-level account of the inferno...which I read once 8 years ago, and still remember details this film left out. The film basically defines each level, provides one or two examples, and moves on. History and philosophy aside, the film does well to keep things low-key, and uses that to their comedic advantage wisely. The film is never laugh-out-loud funny, but it definitely aims to be a comedy.
I wasn't watching this movie for a thought-provoking film, I was just looking for a visually entertaining movie, and it was.
I suspect those who loved this film were those readily amused by the sophomoric pokes at some icons of the political and/or religious right, and that those who hated it took offense at seeing their favored icons poked. Be that as it may, few of those pokes actually rose to the level of satire.
The high point of the movie is a sudden outbreak of "Schoolhouse Rock" on the subject of lobbying and the "revolving door." It's really a shame that the entire film couldn't have been a musical. That would have stripped away a great deal of the annoying film school pretentiousness and added a far stronger element of fun.
Present day Dante Allegeri is brought by Virgil (Roman someone) to the 9 circles of hell. From circles that have places chosen out for Money-Launderers, the angry, and even plain old fashion murderers. They go from the beginning right to the end, being circle 9. A linear story, but still a fun one with plenty of creativity.
Sometimes the film does feel like it's sole purpose is to be creative in the sense that they're just trying to throw certain celebrities in the circle of hell where they belong. Like you'd find Marilyn Monroe in the circle where you'll find suicides, and you'll find Cleopatra with all the whores. Eh, see what I'm saying? Actually trying to think of people that they mentioned is kinda tough. They used a ton of well-known people from history and it just kind of mashes together by the end. But that's not a complaint perse, since the movie showed intelligence and again, creativity.
With a witty, and intelligent approach to telling this story, and to the detailed art style it had, the film is definitely recommendable to the right viewer. Anyone who can appreciate films that clearly are labors of love, like let's say City of Rott or Blood, Tea and Red String, or hell, any film by Jan Svankmajer should find this film to be a welcome addition to their well-rounded viewings.
All of the snobs that say that it's dumbed down apparently don't realize that very old classic literature--especially ones with heavy religious themes--don't click with everyone and can appear on the surface as holier-than-thou to a modern reader. With this film the basics of not only the horrors of Hell and Dante's enduring love for Beatrice (which would probably seem obsessive and maudlin for today's audience) are presented in a digestible way. I was already acquainted with the Circles of Hell even before watching this film, but making parallels and connections to what I knew and the "updated" version of it proved to be just as entertaining as if I came knowing little about the source material.
I am disappointed that I cannot find it for sale or anywhere to stream.
Cheap shots at religion, right-wing politicians, corporations and their lobbyists, Fox News, even SUVs. All the radical leftist talking points were too completely covered - while conspicuously omitting references to wrongdoing from the "other side of the aisle" - to not have been a conscious effort. The singular exception I noticed, in the hour and a half, is JFK has to have sex with Marilyn Monroe for eternity: The token inclusion in these propaganda pieces in a pathetic attempt at appearing non-partisan.
Stocking Hell with Republican political figures, Fox News helicopters and Christian conservatives is a work of literary sacrilege, to say nothing of extreme liberal bias. It is, however, unoriginal, tedious and trite. Nothing in Birk's unworthy and heretical revision is in the least relevant to the original text or is in any way entertaining, humorous or enlightening, despite his smug pretension to the contrary.
I could have eaten a reel of video tape and PUKED a better movie. I regret the two hours of my life that I lost watching this insult to the very concept of poetry. Calliope will weep forever.