Sog.: dal dramma omonimo di Salvatore Di Giacomo (1909). Scen.: Gustavo Serena, Francesca Bertini. F.: Alberto Carta. Scgf.: Alfredo Manzi. Int.: Francesca Bertini (Assunta Spina), Gustavo Serena (Michele Boccadifuoco), Carlo Benetti (don Federigo Funelli), Alberto Albertini (Raffaele), Antonio Cruicchi (padre di Assunta), Amelia Cipriani (Peppina), Alberto Collo (una guardia). Prod.: Caesar Film · DCP. D.: 67’. Tinted and toned.
Assunta Spina is without a doubt one of the unforgettable films of Italian silent cinema. Adapted from a play of the same title by Salvatore Di Giacomo, Assunta Spina represents the excellence of the happy partnership between film and the dramatic repertory of Italian verismo that developed in the mid 1910s with the legendary founding film Sperduti nel buio, now unfortunately lost.
Assunta Spina was shot in fall 1914 in Naples, and during its filming the city itself became its uncredited protagonist: the picture shows the city’s soul, scrutinizes its every aspect, realistically portraying the serenity and beauty of its most colorful areas, the chaotic frenzy of its neighborhoods and markets, as well as the run-down state of the working-class suburbs. Similarly, the film reveals the spirit of Neapolitans, emphasizing their exuberance and passion but also their vengefulness and unrestrained reactions that often degenerate into violence. A stereotyped picture no doubt, but one that escapes cliché through the honesty of the camera, with the neutral lens capturing the crumbling facades of low-income housing, the poverty of unhealthy environments, the faces of unaware passersby, the clumsiness of improvising extras.
The raw image of the city can be glimpsed in a close-up just behind Francesca Bertini and Gustavo Serena who, with equal authenticity, bring to life the dramatic story of Salvatore Di Giacomo’s laundress and the primordial conflict of human passion, forever poised between love and death. Bertini and Serena are not the film’s only main characters: the unlucky laundress’s shawl, in Bertini’s skilled hands, comes to life and acts as a kind of metronome marking the various stages of the tragedy as it unfolds.
Francesca Bertini is the true deus ex machina of Assunta Spina: when producer Barattolo approached her for the part of the laundress, a role the Neapolitan actress had debuted in on stage, Bertini accepted as long as she was also the film’s director. It was a gamble that paid: with capable cameraman Alberto Carta at her side, Bertini demonstrated a surprising sensitivity in directing, framing, and handling the actors, revealing an unexpected talent in a new area for her.