About a Hundred Years Ago. 1915

Programme curated by Mariann Lewinsky and Giovanni Lasi


Our A Hundred Years Ago series and its catalogue are again, like last year, organized into thematic chapters, consisting of several films or sessions. While some of the works from 1915 presented – among them the serial Les Vampires and Italian diva films Assunta Spina or Il fuoco – are canonized classics of film history, the core themes are linked to political history and the catastrophe of that year, the ongoing War.
The war devastated Europe and led its film industries and their formerly international businesses to ruin. France and Italy (the latter entered the war on May 24, 1915) lost the vast export market territories of the Central Powers, Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. Shipping routes were cut. In summer 1915, distributor Jean Desmet in neutral Netherlands had to screen programmes consisting of pre-war films, some of them made as early as 1911 or even 1910, for lack of supply.
The themes of diva film, war and emigration are not confined to A Hundred Years Ago but are to be found as well in other sections of this edition – Armenia, Velle and Murillo, Frascaroli, and the Restored Silents –, all of them connected by a network of films.
My warmest thanks go to the archives who have preserved and lent the films, and to the colleagues who have helped to organize this section.

Mariann Lewinsky


1915. Italian Film

During the first months of 1915 production was running at full speed galvanized by the wild success of the previous two years. Francesca Bertini, Lyda Borelli, Pina Menichelli, Gustavo Serena, Alberto Capozzi and Emilio Ghione, to name the most well-known, were part of a sociological phenomenon hitting the entire planet: film celebrity worship by the masses. In 1915, some of the most notable Italian silent movies were custom made for them: Assunta Spina and Diana l’affascinatrice, starring Francesca Bertini and Gustavo Serena; Il fuoco for the duo Pina Menichelli and Febo Mari; Fior di male and Rapsodia satanica – released later in 1917 – starring the incomparable Lyda Borelli.
This divine period of Italian cinema was not only due to the excellence of its actors but also to the quality of a generation of great directors like Carmine Gallone, Nino Oxilia, Gustavo Serena and Augusto Genina, who by 1915 had developed fully mature directing skills. On a technical level, the Italian film industry could also count on first-class professionals like cinematographers Carlo Montuori, Alberto Carta, Angelo Scalenghe and Giorgino Ricci.
After Italy entered the war, the dazzling lights of national film slowly faded, and, in tune with the bellicose times, other myths and other more aggressive ideologies took over.

Giovanni Lasi