Sog.: Attilio Riccio. Scen.: Jacques Remy, Filippo Sanjust. F.: Gabor Pogany. M.: Riccardo Freda, Giuliana Taucher. Scgf.: Arrigo Equini. Mus.: Franco Mannino. Su.: Ennio Sensi. Int.: Mireille Granelli (Beatrice Cenci), Micheline Presle (Lucrezia), Gino Cervi (Francesco Cenci), Fausto Tozzi (Olimpio Calvetti), Frank Villard (giudice Ranieri), Antonio De Teffé (Giacomo Cenci), Emilio Petacci (Marzio Catalano), Guido Barbarisi (giudice), Claudine Dupuis (Martina). Prod.: Electra Compagnia Cinematografica, Franco London Film. Pri. pro.: 6 settembre 1956. 35mm. D.: 90′. Col.
My scriptwriters and I agreed: the heroine had to be innocent so that the drama would develop and emotion would dominate the film from beginning to end. The first scene is a long tracking shot. Exterior night, in a storm, a girl is running in the forest. The viewer can see the fear in her eyes. The storm and Beethoven’s 6th Symphony add to the fear. Some knights are hot on her heels in pursuit. She is taken back to her father’s castle by her future lover. The heroine is innocent and even if she has been disgraced by her father, she will be sentenced to death. If she had been guilty, it would have become a detective film. However, as she is innocent, it becomes a crime news story. Then there was the need to infuse the criminal episode with lyricism and I tracked down the ingredients: adultery, incest, poisoning, trial, torture and the gallows. Beatrice Cenci is a modern sword-and-sandal, a drama with no way out, like the Greek tragedies. You cannot fight destiny. And I filmed this diabolical fatality in CinemaScope, even if I did not participate directly in the writing, I contributed with my ideas and scrupulously followed the development of the screenplay. […] The director of photography, Gabor Pogany, was able to transform every one of my ideas, in terms of light. He immediately understood that film should look like a fresco, but a morbid fresco. He knew the right light for the lovers, the child on the river; and he knew how to light the feast, even in depth of field. But he also knew how to light the incestuous atmosphere of Cenci as he watches his own daughter undressing. I also thought about the costumes, Beatrice’s clothing is part of the drama. They are a mixture of violent colours which incite Cenci to commit his crime and pastels which evoke Beatrice’s modesty and innocence. Arrigo Equini’s set design and Mario Bava’s effects are both very important. Bava is not mentioned but he participated in the set design and the special effects. These effects prove that he is a genuine artist. I think CinemaScope is a magnificent format and I feel at ease with it. More than ever before, I tried to get Carpaccio’s style into the picture; he never hesitated in using canvases that were sixty feet wide. But no critic has ever noticed the Italian painters influence in my work. From the first nighttime shot “the woman hunt”, I exploited the format in all its power. When Beatrice finds her lover on the bridge that leads to the ancestral castle and her little brother is watching them, only CinemaScope allows for this type of composition. I was not interested in using CinemaScope to reduce it to the size of a stamp. I was thinking about Tintoretto, Veronese and Da Vinci’s The Last Supper.
Riccardo Freda, in Eric Poindron, Riccardo Freda un pirate à la caméra. Entretiens, Institut Lumière-Actes Sud, Arles 1994