Pupi Avati’s human Dante is as pleasing and convincing as his no

Finally a film that opens a glimpse, cultured and bright, on the Italian imagination. AND’ “Dante” from Pupi Avati. A film that takes you by surprise, pleasantly, because it is all about dualism. On the one hand a sparse and material everyday life and on the other the spirituality that emanates from Dante’s work. Dualism also in the protagonists: to move more often on the stage is Boccaccio-Castellitto traveling to Ravenna to bring ten florins in compensation to Dante’s nun daughter. The great poet instead we see him young (Alessandro Sperduti) and then afflicted with malarial fevers on his deathbed.

The medieval setting of the film “Dante”

The whole filmic fresco is made more credible by the setting: solid and rough medieval walls, perspectives that seem frozen in time, chosen between Umbria, Lazio and Emilia-Romagna. And again religious icons, battles devoid of pathos that lead only to death and destruction, a pauperism that exudes from shapeless clothes, dirty faces, unkempt hair. And the disease always lurking and always present, underlined by the bandaged hands of Boccaccio afflicted with scabies. In short, the Middle Ages of Pupi Avati has nothing of the romanticism of Hugo, nothing of the chivalrous myth of Sir Walter Scott, and still nothing of the Tolkienian fantasy atmospheres. And it had to be just like that, that middle age that lays the foundations of modernity. And it is no coincidence that the director also made use of the consultancy of money order historians such as Franco Cardini.

The choice of an all too human Dante

It is an Italian and realistic Middle Ages. Illuminated by the verses of a restless, mysterious poet, in the perennial search for God. All the incrustations of posterity on the character Dante are cleared by the director, who chooses a young Dante who inspires tenderness, who follows Beatrice and is immediately taken by love for the girl who “seems so kind and so honest”. Among other things, Dante was not a handsome man. Boccaccio describes it like this: “It was […] this poet of ours of mediocre stature, and then, when he reached a ripe age, he went somewhat stooped, and it was his going grave and meek, in very honest clothes always dressed in that suit which was at his proper maturity. His face was long, and his nose was aquiline, and his eyes, indeed as big as petioles, his jaws large, and from the lip below him was the advanced one above; and his color was brown, and his hair and beard thick, black and frizzy, and always in his face wistful and pensive“. In the film the young Dante strikes above all for the look. Thanks to which one can sense the attraction for poetry, the visionary attitude, the creative energy (after his death the apple tree no longer bears fruit). However, the director insists on the human Dante, perhaps too human. To the point of showing him in the act of defecating before the battle of Campaldino in which he participated on 11 June 1289.

The irreverent comments of some students

If you go to see the mediocre and irreverent comments of the students who have seen the film brought one imagines from their professors, it is no coincidence that one writes: “I have always dreamed of seeing Dante shitting”. It is the revenge of those who do not understand and perhaps will never get there and in any case there is also this in the film by Pupi Avati. The possibility of the donkey student to take revenge on the obscure Dante language. Ultimately, in the film there is the man Dante in all his carnality and there is the medieval age in his corporality deprived of any literary and fascinating veil.

The opposition between matter and spirit

But let’s go back to the starting point, to the idea around which the film revolves: the opposition between matter and spirit. And more specifically between carnal love and spiritual love. Carnal love is always unsatisfactory, if not a source of disgust as in the case of the nuptial coupling between the young wife Beatrice and her husband Simone dei Bardi much older than her. Spiritual love is what inspires the immortal verses and which gives light to the words to the point of making the Comedy (which Boccaccio himself defined as Divine) an intrigue of symbols, a unique work where the theological and theatrical structure go hand in hand step. A puzzle for posterity fatigued in rising from the literal to the anagogical sense. And spiritual love is for Beatrice, the love of Vita Nova, it is the love that moves the sun and the other stars. And that pierces and moves with its beauty. Like the frescoes of Sant’Apollinare which we contemplate in the final scenes of the film.

Pupi Avati’s human Dante is as pleasing and convincing as his no-frills Middle Ages – Century of Italy