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 appetite for early epic films spawned a burgeoning Italian film industry (see also my review of Cabiria which was released in 1914).
“The Inferno,” which is credited with being the first feature-length Italian film, is a compelling and haunting trip into the depths of hell. Long stretches of scenes with nude, tortured people lying about throughout the different layers of hell. Virgil and Dante encounter all manner of mythical figures – Homer, Pluto, Mohammad, sinners, Charon, Cerberus, demons and then the film ends with a crescendo in the 9th circle of hell as we witness a massive special effects shot of Lucifer devouring Brutus and Gaius. It is certainly a highly memorable film.
As in the epic poem, Dante is led through the many layers of hell by Virgil as the scenes are filled with fetishized people strewn about in torturous misery –the aesthetic is largely based on the famous drawings of Gustave Doré. It was initially screened in Naples but actually managed to find success in the United States. L’Inferno met some minor controversy for its depictions of torture, nudity, and hell. Unfortunately I was not able to find much information about this trio of Italian directors.