L’Inferno (1911)

I watched the 1911 Italian film L’Inferno, based on Dante’s Divine Comedy, last week for the first time. It has some good effects for its time, as it depicts Dante and Virgil traveling through the circles of hell. I had read many customer reviews of this DVD, complaining that the modern music by Tangerine Dream was good but not appropriate for the film. I disagree — the movie is very dream-like, not horrific, and the music supports and enhances that dream-like quality. I would prefer to watch a silent movie while hearing a score, even a modern one, that was written specifically for the movie, and that is what Tangerine Dream has done. The song lyrics are from the book and help to drive the silence of the movie. Sometimes silent films simply have Classical music attached, which may or not sound appropriate for any given scene.

Not all of the effects are so good, however. Cerberus, if you can truly call him that, is the most laughable, pathetic creature that I’ve ever seen in a movie. He is about the size of a large dog, seems to be a moth-eaten puppet, and looks more like a three-headed sheep than a dog. It’s really incredibly bad. Had that Cerberus been the one that Herakles had taken from Hades, then he would have had nothing to brag about.

The Lucifer scene towards the end of the film looks good at first and very similar to the Dore illustration, but the actor keeps making googly eyes as he pretends to chomp on a human body. He reminds me of the cowardly lion in The Wizard of Oz. It kind of ruins the effect.

Overall, though, well worth seeing this piece of cinematic history.


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