Sog.: dall’omonimo poema di Torquato Tasso. Scen.: Enrico Guazzoni. F.: Alfredo Lenci. Int.: Amleto Novelli (Tancredi), Edy Darclea (Armida),Olga Benetti (Clorinda), Elena Sangro (Erminia), Beppo Corradi (Rinaldo), Aristide Garbini (Argante), Eduardo Monteneve (Goffredo di Buglione), Rinaldo Rinaldi (Olindo). Prod.: Guazzoni-film. 35mm. L.: 1461 m. D.: 65′ a 19 f/s. Bn e col.
Are you eager to see a long silent film from 1918 with the title Gerusalemme liberata, set during the First Crusade and based on a classic of Italian literature from 1581? No, you are not.
Braced for a period hammy movie in an unappetizing sauce of colonialist racism, I viewed Guazzoni’s La Gerusalemme liberata in late 2017 for no other reason than the duty to view works from 1918. The print was modest, but the film was a wonderful surprise, a magnificent fantasy with spectacular battle scenes, female knights, magic weapons, fancy oriental gardens, enchanted forests and, as a poster announced in 1918, “20,000 crusaders – 10,000 horses – Titanic duel between Tancredi and Argante – Fantastic vision of a battle at night – Towers on fire – Gigantic reconstruction of the walls of Jerusalem”. As good as Aleksandr Nevskij or Ran, and much better than The Lord of the Rings, I thought. For spectators who are not born half an hour’s train ride from Ferrara, where the epics Orlando innamorato (Boiardo), Orlando furioso (Ariosto) and La Gerusalemme liberata (Tasso) were written several hundred years ago, Guazzoni’s film not only transports you into a universe of fantastic entertainment, it also leads you to the fountainhead of numerous operas by Händel, Vivaldi and Gluck, of madrigals by Monteverdi, of the Sicilian puppet theatre and to the unique theatrical experiment of Luca Ronconi, in 1969.
Enrico Guazzoni (1876-1949), who had been a painter before joining Cines in 1909 is best known for Quo vadis? (1913), but his first world-wide success was in fact a Gerusalemme liberata (1911), a lost first version, praised at the time as a spectacular achievement. An extant Guazzoni from 1911, La sposa del Nilo, shows his outstanding ability in orchestrating crowd scenes, the attention to costumes and sets (he usually did the art direction for his films), the sense of beauty in composition and lighting. He was not limited to costume drama, but also did comedies – the very funny and self-referential Una tragedia al cinematografo (1915) – and directed Pina Menichelli in La casa di nessuno and Alla deriva (both, 1915), films that launched her as a diva.