Dante (Italy/US/Canada 2014)

Beatrice (Eleonora Pizzoccheri) recruits Virgilio (Francesco Cevaro) to be Dante's guide through The Inferno

Beatrice (Eleonora Pizzoccheri) recruits Virgilio (Francesco Cevaro) to be Dante’s guide through The Inferno

The international operation of national cultural agencies such as the Goethe Institut, Cervantes Institute and Institut Français (and Alliance Française) means that in many cities films and associated cultural activities are accessible on a regular basis. But what of Italian culture? There is an equivalent agency in the form of the Dante Alighieri Society which operates worldwide. Some societies show Italian films but it may be that the profile (certainly in my part of the UK) is not as high as the other language agencies.

This new Dante film is clearly aimed at increasing that profile in North America. Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) is considered to be the ‘father of Italian language’ and his famous epic poem ‘The Divine Comedy’ is seen to be the first to be written in an ‘iteration of modern Italian’. The poem has long been taught in the Italian school curriculum and is now being taught overseas, but up until now there has not been a modern feature length film adaptation of the poem. This new film adaptation of the ‘Divine Comedy’ is a co-production designed to introduce students to the poem and also to offer a new interpretation to diaspora Italian audiences and a wider audience interested in Italian culture.

DantePosterDante, directed by Luca Lussoso and produced by Elettra Pizzi at Elektra Films will have its Canadian première (free screening) at The Columbus Centre, 901 Lawrence Avenue W, Toronto, ON M6A 1C3 on Tuesday, October 14 at 7:00 pm. Get tickets from Eventbrite.

I can’t claim any knowledge of Dante’s poem, except that I know it is an acclaimed literary work. I’ll therefore concentrate on what is presented in the new film more from an aesthetic perspective. The film is quite short for a feature – about 72 minutes – and presented in Italian with optional English subtitles. It isn’t a ‘costume picture’ that attempts to represent an authentic medieval world. Instead many of the backgrounds are presented using computer modelling, so that the film image appears more like a videogame in parts (rather than ‘realist’ CGI). Thinking about it, the prospect of exploring the underworld seems eminently suited to a certain kind of videogame experience. The aesthetic is clearly chosen to attract the target audience as this extract from the Press Notes suggests:

. . . creating a film that facilitates cultural diffusion through a universal medium can garner curiosity even in those intimidated by the epic poem. The film is meant to gain natural curiosity from those who have an interest in Italian history, literature, language studies, and in general the Italian population who learn about Dante and The Divine Comedy throughout their educational upbringing.

The official (English language version) website for ‘Dante the film’ has further details and contact details for anyone trying to organise a screening.

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