Watch 1911 Italian film ‘L’Inferno’, one of the first-ever feature films created
L’Inferno is an Italian silent film from 1911. The three directors of the project, Francesco Bertolini, Adolfo Padovan and Giuseppe de Liguoro wanted to elevate cinema to the higher echelons of literature and theatre. It might seem unnatural today but back then, a three-person directorial credit was not uncommon. The division of responsibilities was fluid and the product was an intersection of three different types of talents.
Based on the first part of La Divina Commedia by Italian poet Dante Alighieri, the greatest achievement of L’Inferno is its synchronous mise en scène. As a tribute to the morbid, ghastly images adorn the screen and pale, naked bodies of men and women are seen squirming in every layer of hell. The costumes work together with the special effects to create an ethereal quality.
The special effects visible throughout the film are anachronistically good. Lucifer is a depicted as a colossal creature, with his wings stretching out into the void. Most of the visuals were based on the paintings of Gustave Doré, a 19th century artist.
American film critic W. Stephen Bush praised the film while saying, “They have made Dante intelligible to the masses. The immortal work, whose beauties until now were accessible only to a small band of scholars, has now after a sleep of more than six centuries become the property of mankind.”
L’Inferno is a unique cinematic achievement that was able to capture the infinitely nuanced work of one of the greatest poets in human history without any words and in 70 minutes.