L’Inferno (1911) Director: Francesco Bertolini, Adolfo Padovan, Giuseppe De Liguoro
“The Inferno” is an early silent Italian film portraying the first (and most important) part of Dante’s “Divine Comedy”. Spurred on by Italy’s War with Libya (1911-1912), the hub for early epic films spawned a burgeoning Italian film industry (see also Cabiria which was released in 1914).
As in the epic poem, Dante is led through the many layers of hell by Virgil filled with fetishized people laying in torturous misery.
The film is credited with being the first feature length Italian film. It was initially screened in Naples but found success in the United States. The scenes for the film are largely based on the drawings of Gustave Dore. The film met some minor controversy for its depictions of torture, nudity, and hell. It had a run-time of just over 60 minutes. There seems to be little information available about the trio of Italian directors.
The film is a compelling and haunting trip into the depths of hell. Long stretches of scenes with nude, tortured people lying about in the different layers of hell. Virgil and Dante encounter all manner of mythical figures – Homer, Pluto, Mohammad, sinners, Charon, Cerberus, demons and the film ends with a crescendo in the 9th circle of hell with a massive, special effects shot of Lucifer devouring Brutus and Gaius. It is certainly, still, a memorable film.