Following on the heels of his dual films, “Dante’s Inferno – Abandon All Hope” and his animated version, “Dante’s Hell Animated,” documentarian Boris Acosta revealed the first of three feature documentaries that explore the Divine Comedy, “Dante’s Hell.”
As a child with a vivid imagination, I took stock in both heaven and hell. I always pictured hell to be a long, narrow corridor with black and white laminate squares. Though I have never understood the significance of my own dream, I can say with great assuredness that Mr. Acosta has managed to heat the coils of Hell with the first of three documentaries in to Dante Alighieri’s “Inferno,” the first part of the 14th– century “Divine Comedy”.
“Dante’s Hell,” which premiered at the recently concluded Cannes Film Festival, looks at the origins and meanings of each of the Nine Layers of Hell through interviews with over 30 scholars, poets, clergy and actors & actresses as they offer their interpretation of Dante’s journey.
The film’s “general narration was recorded in 2009 by Golden Globe nominee Jeff Conaway (“Grease,” “Babylon 5,” “Taxi”)” according to the film website. His voice, though softly spoken, carries a power behind it that dares you not to pull away from the beautiful animation on the screen as he explores the origins and meanings of “Dante’s Inferno.”
As the bold narration by Mr. Conaway continues, the voice cast including Eric Roberts, Vittorio Matteucci, Vincent Spano, Franco Nero, Monsignor Marco Frisina, Dennis Slattery, Armand Mastroianni, and Nia Peeples give voice to the characters that inhabit our descent into Hell. They also give meaning. Before this, it was left to our imagination if we wanted to brave Dante Alighieri’s first section, “The Inferno.” Mr. Acosta’s visual work along with the voice cast and on-camera interviews, gives the audience a unique flavor as they share with us their interpretations.
Cinematically, “Dante’s Hell” is easily one of the most accessible interpretations as the animation synchronizes with the ongoing narrative. Given the level of talent and scholarly commentary, it is easy to see why “Dante’s Hell” could be accepted by the general public. The documentary does not overreach with its interpretation and none of the contributors contradicts one another. Which is an achievement unto itself considering the film’s lengthy 10-year production. It was worth the wait to see over 300 paintings and illustrations from artists across the globe. “In addition, it features a new repainted 75-piece art collection Dino Di Durante, in addition to the aforementioned “Dante’s Hell Animated” and the historic animation film “Inferno Dantesco Animato” with Franco Nero. It also features excerpts from the first Italian feature film “L’Inferno (1911)”, mentions a press release announcing the screening at Cannes.
Boris Acosta’s “Dante’s Hell” is a revolutionary documentary, one for people of all faiths, all beliefs to enjoy as it answers basic human questions. Mr. Acosta is truly a gifted and patient storyteller. Seek out this film as you can.