In March 1911, the hour-long Italian silent film epic L’Inferno was screened in the Teatro Mercadante in Naples. The film was adapted from the first part of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy and took visual inspiration from Gustave Doré’s haunting illustration. It is widely considered to be the best adaptation of The Inferno and is regarded by many scholars as the finest film adaptation of any of Dante’s works to date. The film became an international success and is arguably the first true blockbuster in all of cinema. L’Inferno was directed by three artists; Francesco Bertolini, Adolfo Padovan, and Giuseppe de Liguoro.
Their film is well-remembered for its stunning visualization of the nine circles of Hell and special effects that convey haunting visuals. The film presents a massive Lucifer with wings that stretch out behind him in front of a black void. He is seen devouring the Roman figures Brutus and Cassius in a display of double exposure and scale manipulation. According to critics, L’Inferno is able to capture some of the manic, tortuous, and bizarre imagery and themes of Dante’s complex masterwork.
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