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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 ... Dante Alighieri
Arturo Pirovano ... Virgilio
Giuseppe de Liguoro ... Farinata degli Uberti
Pier Delle Vigne ... Il conte Ugolino
Augusto Milla ... Lucifer
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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Color:

(tinted)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This is the first feature film to be shown in its entirety, in one screening, in the USA. Prior to this it was thought audiences wouldn't be prepared to sit for over an hour to watch a feature - films such as Les Misérables (1909) and The Life of Moses (1909) were shown in episodic parts over the course of a month or two. 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

Referenced in Dante's Inferno: Abandon All Hope (2010) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Infernal tableaux
18 October 2006 | by See all my reviews

WARNING: This review contains explicit language which some people may find offensive.

I attended a special screening of "L'Inferno" at the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan; for this screening, the film's intertitles had been removed, and the movie's dialogue and narration were spoken live by the brilliant actors Len Cariou and Roberta Maxwell, accompanied by an appropriately hellish violin score by Gil Morgenstern.

For all its considerable crudeness, this early film is still powerful. Much of its impact is due to the decision to depict the (male) inhabitants of Hell entirely naked. (A couple of them are wanting an arm or a leg.) The image of naked men desperately scrambling for room in Charon's cramped coracle is far more effective than the same image would have been with costumed actors. The film would have been even more powerful had it included female nudity, although I concede that this would have been too much to expect in 1911. Even the nudity which we see here is undercut by the fact that some of the men in Hell are wearing nappies. The notorious sequence in the river of excrement is cleaned up somewhat here, to feature merely a river of dirty water. The narration includes a reference to the famous sign at the entrance to Hell -- "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here" -- yet we never see this sign; perhaps it was rendered in Italian in the original prints of this film, and was therefore cut out of prints exhibited outside Italy.

The exterior scenes are shot against stark cliffs plunging perpendicularly to the sea, affording no shelter: the landscapes of Hell. Several flashbacks contain interior shots, featuring painted sets of the style which modern audiences will attribute to French film-maker Georges Melies.

I try to perceive every film that I view in the context of its own time. Regrettably, most of the acting here is crude even by 1911 standards. The subject matter allows for some melodramatic overacting, yet these actors exceed the limits. The special effects, too, are crude by 1911 standards. Several of the double exposures are off-register, with visible "shimmy". The hell-hound Cerberus looks like a three-headed ostrich cross-bred with a poodle. Georges Melies was doing more convincing special effects in 1906. I did like the clever method of giving Beatrice a halo by placing a whirligig behind the actress's head. The costumes in the flashback sequences are impressive.

For the screening which I attended, the original Italian intertitles were newly translated by Robert Pinsky of the Poetry Society of America. I feel that he should have been less literal and more colloquial: when Dante described a damned soul "making a fig", it wasn't immediately clear to the (mostly American) audience that this referred to an obscene hand-gesture.

For all its crudity, this is an astonishing film with great visual impact. I wish that the same production company had tackled Dante's "Purgatorio" and "Paradiso". My rating: 8 out of 10.


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