Giovanni Pastrone: Il fuoco

Il fuoco
(La favilla, la vampa, la cenere)
R: Giovanni Pastrone (as Piero Fosco). B: Gabriele D’Annunzio (novel), Febo Mari (story). K: Segundo de Chomón. D: Pina Menichelli, Febo Mari, Felice Minotti. P: Itala Film. It 1915/1916
Print: Il Museo Nazionale del Cinema Torino

“Like Rapsodia Satanica, Il fuoco is a film so atmospheric as to be surreal, representing the height of D’Annunzian decadence. It exists on the plane of myth and symbolism much more so than that of the real world: passion and mysterious caprice abound, buoyed by extended visual and narrative metaphors about fire and birds of prey.
Menichelli plays an unnamed poetess, who is also a duchess. At sunset one day, she meets an unknown painter (played by Febo Mari) in the countryside, both working on their art by a reedy riverbank. She approaches him, creeps up on him almost; he is instantly fascinated with this strange, bird-like, beautiful woman, wondering if he will see her again.”
Silents, Please!

“Pina Menichelli is the very ideal of the diva in Il Fuoco (Italy, 1915). Introduced only as an illustrious poetess and countess, she steps out of her chauffeured car in a feathered outfit and hat that makes her look like a bird of prey. And she acts that way too when she meets the young artist Mario (Febo Mari), ‘the unknown painter.’ She is inflamed by the power of his commitment and the beauty of his art but love is a very different kind of thing for her, a momentary conflagration of great excitement and heat that quickly burns out. And fire is the appropriate metaphor for a woman whose seduction includes smashing an oil lamp onto a table just to watch the flames burn. (…)
It’s directed by Giovanni Pastrone, whose Cabiria (1914) is one of the landmarks of Italian epic spectacle. He brings the scale down for this film and takes his camera in closer for the more intimate story. The images and costumes are lavish and the performances tend to the operatic, larger than life in every respect, but he stages these scenes to express the internal drama rather than the external spectacle and in one scene offers a rare and subtly striking truck in from a medium long shot to medium close-up of the two lovers, all the more dynamic in a 1916 film that otherwise resorts to cutting and the occasional pan to reframe.”
Sean Axmaker
Parallax View

Further reading:
Vittorio Renzi: Il fuoco
Garden of Silence – Storie e visioni del cinema muto (Ital.)

>>> Pina Menichelli in Nino Oxilia’s films Per amore di Jenny and Papà

>>> Febo Mari in Una partita a scacchi