Teodora, Imperatrice Di Bisanzio

Riccardo Freda

Scen.: André-Paul Antoine, Riccardo Freda. F.: Rodolfo Lombardi. M.: Mario Serandrei. Scgf.: Antonio Valente, Filiberto Sbardella. Mus.: Renzo Rossellini. Int.: Gianna Maria canale (Teodora), George Marchal (Giustiniano), Irene Papas (Saidia), Renato Baldini (Arcas), Carletto Sposito (Scorpios), Nerio Bernardi (Belisario), Alessandro Fersen (il metropolita). Prod.: Lux Film, Lux Compagnie Cinématographique de France. 35mm. D.: 91′. Col.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

In this fascinating sword-and-sandal melodrama set in Ravenna, at studios in Rome and the EUR complex, Freda brings to the screen a seductive and strong female character and, less than a year after the first Italian feature film in color, is the first in Europe to experiment with a new Technicolor film stock produced by Eastman Kodak, which gave the movie a very different look from other contemporary Italian color films.
It was Freda’s third and final film for Lux, which allowed him some room to manoeuver. It was also his first color film and one of his largest budgets. Experimenting with an Eastman Kodak negative that had to go to New York to be printed, Freda received the rushes twenty days later. The quality of the result is nevertheless surprising, as is the variety, contrast and intensity. Although it was not strictly speaking a ‘sword-andsandal’ film, given the place and time of the action, Theodora – which came after Fabiola (Alessandro Blasetti, 1949), The Last Days of Pompeii (Marcel L’Herbier, 1950), Messalina (Carmine Gallone, 1951) and especially Spartaco (1953) also by Freda – can be considered an important step towards the renewal (195965) of a genre quite neglected since the beginnings of the sound era (apart from the colossal Scipio Africanus: The Defeat of Hannibal). Compared to Freda’s other films, it is calm and balanced. The acting is striking in its regularity and the script in its capable writing. The balanced dialogue and dramatic scenes are particularly remarkable, another dualism, commendably exploited, between light and shadows (see the contrast, in the series of spectacular scenes, between the luminosity of the racing chariots and the dark ferocity of the underground fighting). At the same time, it is one of Freda’s few optimistic films. The union of sensuality and tenderness between Justinian and Theodora is mirrored, at a political level, in the happy marriage between aristocratic severity and popularly inspired liberalism. And so a continual correspondence (in Baudelaire’s sense of the word) is established between the private life of the two characters and their public destiny. It gives a surprisingly positive hint about the political daydreaming of a director who is usually more cynical and bitter. The framing, the sequences and their virtuoso rhythm remain admirable; they make Freda one of the great aesthetes in the history of cinema. For instance: the scene where Theodora, hunted by the blind monster, tries to break the line of guards preventing her from escaping.

Jacques Lourcelles, Dictionnaire du cinéma. Les films, Robert Laffont, Paris



Copy From