Thursday, September 11, 2008

Dante's Inferno

Thanks to the wonderful world of inter-library loan, I was able to get ahold of a copy of the 1969 Ken Russell biopic about the life of Rossetti, Dante's Inferno. The film is going to be included in a retrospective DVD set coming out on the 23rd, Ken Russell at the BBC, but the price was a bit steep for me for just one movie. So until the DVD comes out and someone takes better screencaps, I took some photos of the screen to share the VHS copy of this film with you. The quality is poor, but clicking on the photos to enlarge helps.

As for the film itself, it was remarkable. Portions of it were rather melodramatic, and several of the people acted in ways that seemed rather out-of-character, but still, the film visually was amazing. The actors were impeccably chosen to resemble their counterparts, and it was obvious that the team making the movie studied old photographs and paintings with great detail, as can be seen below. However, the movie was stolen, I thought, by the actress playing Lizzie, who looked SO much like Rossetti's Lizzie that at times I had goosebumps on my arms.

Also, the integration of the poetry written by the PRB was quite was interesting to hear the words of these poets spoken in context during moments that might have inspired the words.

Anyway, the pictures...lots of them, since there were many great shots.

My favorite scene...the PRB at Red House (at the actual Red House it appears!!) relaxing on the lawn, and being their "normal" selves. In this scene, Christina Rossetti reads a poem about the PRB aloud to the group.

Janey and Topsy.
Lizzie and Rossetti
Topsy. Part of me wishes they had gone further into the genius of Morris, but it WAS a movie about Rossetti after all....
Huh...apparently William Morris painted Isolde life-size on the wall of the Debating Hall before he even met Janey ;) (in the movie at least)
A great shot of the actor playing Ruskin posing for the Millais portrait.
The actress playing Lizzie had the perfect eyes for the role...she had those "heavy lidded" eyes seen in so many sketches.

I love this moment....Janey posing for Rossetti at Kelmscott.
If I went into photoshop and made this look like pencil, this could truly be a Rossetti sketch of Lizzie. Remarkable!!!
The actress playing Janey. Janey was probably my biggest disappointment in the movie. She was played like a total femme fatale with no real depth.
Lizzie sips her fatal dosage
Rossetti is haunted by both of his muses


Amanda Flynn said...

Wow! That looks REALLY interesting! I can't believe how much that actress looks like Lizzie! That is so cool!

Definitely something I'd be interested in, I'm just wondering what the content level is. It's not rated, is it?

Thanks for sharing! :)

Grace said...

There is a bit of light-hearted flirtatious romping about that Rossetti and Lizzie do, but no sex scenes at all. I didn't notice the language, but it was probably all period anyway.

I'd guesstimate the rating at probably PG, but don't hold me to that ;)

Margaret said...

This is great, Grace! I really had wanted to see this movie but I wasn't able to find it anywhere (except in that expensive collection!). This is one of those times when being a librarian comes in handy! Anyway, seeing these screen-caps is a real treat.

You're right about Lizzie--she looks shockingly like Rossetti's sketches. I was skeptical about Oliver Reed as Rossetti--what did you think of him in the role?

It's interesting that they were able to use Red House for making the film. I wonder if the new BBC miniseries will be shot on location?

Judy said...

Your stills are WONDERFUL and very representative of the moody quality of the film. When I saw it years ago I had very low expectations but I was amazed that KR could get female actresses who so closely resembled their real counterparts.

Besides Red House KR used Old Battersea House in Wandsworth as a locale. At the time it housed a the De Morgan (William and Evelyn) collection of art which was presided over by Evelyn's sister, Anna Maria Wilhelmina Stirling. That collection is now at the De Morgan Centre in Putney.

sarachmet said...

Oh my, now that sounds like some shocking news. I really must see the movie once it's available anywhere. Not mentioning the Rossetti's story, but I've always been a fan of Ken Russell ( poor fan- it appears- as I wasn't aware of the fact that he ever made such movie! )
Thank you for posting this, best regards:)

Grace said...

Hi Margaret,

Oliver Reed played his Rossetti pretty well. I can't decide if it was the acting or the directing, but in the end, I was able to see how even though this man was a playboy and a rogue, he was still charming to both friends and women.

I definitely hope the new series is shot on location. And I also hope that their attempts to use references to modern pop culture (the "boy band" of the Victorians??) is just to get the general public interested in a miniseries that will be largely historically accurate. One can hope!!!

I do so love Evelyn De Morgan's art, Judy, and didn't know that that location was used in the film! Thank you! :)

And thanks Sarachmet...the film is definitely worth a watch!

Stephanie Pina said...

What a thrilling post! I have never seen Dante's Inferno and am longing to see it. You and Margaret are right, the actress who portrayed Lizzie is perfection!
Like you, I hope that the new series is shot on location. With the Pre-Raphaelites as subject matter, there is a potential for a great series. But I don't want to get my hopes up.

Amanda Flynn said...

Thanks so much Grace! If it ever gets in the library I will definitely give it a try! Still can't get over how much that actress looks like Lizzie... lol

Greatbatch || Studio said...

gosh I wish merchant and ivory would make a pre raph film. I actually started writing a screenplay myself for fun and chose all the people to play them from casting sites!

Grace said...

How fun, Greatbatch! I'd love to know who you chose for the roles :)

lesley Cunningham said...

"I definitely hope the new series is shot on location."

They're making a series about the PRB? I'd love to know more, who's doing it?

Grace said...

Hi Lesley!

There was an announcement about two months ago that BBC Two was optioning a miniseries about the Pre-Raphaelites called Desperate Romantics, for release in 2009 or 2010.