Sog.: Federico Fava. F.: Lorenzo Pezzano. Int.: Denis Lotti, Gian Piero Brunetta, Paolo Caneppele, Carlo Montanaro, Carlo Lizzani, Natalia Nussinova, Luciano De Ambrosis, Piero Zanotto. Prod.: Tunastudio, Rai Cinema. Blu-ray. D.: 75′. Bn e Col.
The documentary’s title pays homage to the 1914 silent film, a fundamental work for the generations of filmmakers trained at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia during the 1930s. Historical accounts say that it was the viewing of Nino Martoglio’s Sperduti nel buio, screened for educational purposes at the institute, that sparked the Neorealism film movement, based on the theories of Umberto Barbaro. Only a few stills of the film remain. In fact, the only surviving print of it was part of the 313 films of the CSC that, in autumn of 1943, were stolen by the Wehrmacht, shipped to Germany and then lost. During that same terrible period, while the Allies were marching up the peninsula, the Salò regime relocated the production of Cinecittà to the Giardini della Biennale in Venice – the so-called Cinevillaggio – believing the lagoon city to be a safe place, which was already home to the production company Scalera Film. Our documentary follows two parallel paths: the journey, inspired by the idea of Professor Gian Piero Brunetta, reconstructing the vicissitudes of the CSC’s film library from Rome towards Northern and Eastern Europe; the other itinerary investigates – thanks to the testimony of protagonists of the era, such as Luciano De Ambrosis – the film production system of Salò, which seems suspended in a parallel dimension while the world around it was consumed by the World War. This long journey affords the viewer an opportunity to observe up close the various phases of research, by no means linear. It provides encounters with scholars and historians who, from Rome to Moscow via Berlin and Vienna, interpret the materials, the information available and the hypotheses, following the itinerary of the three hundred lost films. It is an attempt to shed light on an important part of our recent history, and not just of film, that is still to be written.