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Dante's Inferno (2007)

A movie directed by Sean Meredith

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Dante for Dummies

  • Jun 13, 2009
Dante Alighieri's `Divine Comedy' is filled with vivid imagery and flowing poetry. It is one of the most celebrated pieces of literature of all time. It doesn't need many more translations. New ones are welcome, but it has been improved upon for the English reader time and time again. On the other hand, `Dante's "Inferno,"' the movie, takes many modern contexts and puts a new spin on the timeless classic.

Based on Marcus Doug Harvey, Sandow Birk, and Marcus Sanders' adaptation, the film is a cut-out puppet show--one with the wires still very visible attached to figures going across a mini stage with the finesse of amateurs using magnets and paper clips. The sets are a landscape of (mostly) urban decay--still lifes that are at best a bit impressive, but that`s the exception not the rule. The composite may seem like an A+ project by a high school senior, but on DVD, the results may be of interest only to hard-core Dante-philes or the uninitiated who only want to take the journey via 'Cliff Notes'.

Sight gags and funny references go along with literal passages, and true characters from the book go along with modern updates. (You get to meet Palo and Francesca, Ciacco, the Hog; and Brunetto Latini--as modern players, except their characters and sins are remarkably intact. However, this time you also get to meet Richard Nixon, Hitler, and Stalin along the way.)

The best aspect of the movie is the written material, which is mostly funny and favorable. Sometimes the modern update is right on the money. (Who can argue with Lizzie Borden being among the traitors against kin in the last circle of hell, Lake Coccyx?) Still, finding Hitler among the fortune-tellers doesn't exactly sound like poetic justice to me--even if their explanation does make a point. And, for that matter, I wouldn't put Cardinal John O'Conner in 'The Inferno' at all, but that's just me. I happened to notice that there were a lot more Republicans than Democrats in 'The Inferno,' but, 'The Divine Comedy' does have its political references. Instead of Ghelfs and Gibolenes (white and black), we get red and blue.

Anyway, I'm not God and Dante never pretended to be--it was all meant to be representations of sin and redemption with identifiable figures from Dante's neighborhood to fictitious people in Greek mythology.

`Dante's "Inferno"' entices as much as it repels. To keep a wider audience, the entertainment goes into full gear. "Every dog has his day," Dante quips after Virgil shoots the three-headed dog, Cerebus. At 1:18 the presentation does an admirable cross-section of some of the most memorable cantos. It is rated R for the language and for the explicit nudity during the first circle of the lustful. (I never thought paper puppets could leave so little to the imagination.)

Dermot Mulroney does a convincing modern everyman as Dante, the pilgrim, and James Cromwell is perfect for the voice of Virgil. Clocking in at such a short time, I'll bet a lot of college students and Dante aficionados will satisfy their curiosity for a thoughtful, but often bare bones presentation of a marvelous work.

(Those who are strict with literature interpretations of 'The Divine Comedy' should take consolation that at least this interpretation is closer to 'The Inferno' than the film 'What Dreams May Come'.)

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More Dante's Inferno (2007) reviews
review by . July 19, 2008
"Dante's Inferno"    A Modern Realization    Amos Lassen    "Dante's Inferno" is a subversive and darkly satirical realization of the original which was written in the14th century. It is not regular movie fare--it is presented with the use of intricate paper puppets and miniature sets. We are taken on a travelogue of Hell and it looks a lot like the way we live today. Dermot Mulroney is the voice of Dante and he awakens to find he is lost …
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John L. Peterson ()
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I am a substitute teacher who enjoysonline reviewing. Skiing is my favorite pastime; weight training and health are my obsessions;and music and movies feed my psyche. Books are a treasure and a pleasure … more
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About this movie


Feels like the unholy offspring of Mike Judge and R. Crumb. --Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times
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Director: Sean Meredith
DVD Release Date: August 26, 2008
Runtime: 78 minutes
Studio: TLA
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"A Modern Realization"
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