Fire, The / Il fuoco (la favilla - la vampa - la cenere) (1916)

4.0 out of 5

A torrid romance is sparked between a predatory owl obsessed wealthy poetess played by the wonderfully compelling Pina Menichelli and a poor unknown artist and author of this piece Febo Mari. The poor fellow proves to be way out of his depth.

Hypnotic in gestures and nonchalant in expression the unique and incredible Menichelli commands every scene and the poetic script, rich in symbolism is erotically charged as our temptress in various states of undress takes control of a dear Mari who is a hopeless slave to love, lust, is a pathetically soppy and romantic type and is clearly in the thrall to the manipulative aristocrat, despite it being painfully obvious, to all but he, that this could only possibly end one way. She pretty much explains this to the poor fellow as she smashes a lamp on a table and sets fire to the oil, staring manically into the flame while explaining about love burning bright and being extinguished in a night.

The erotically charged Il fuoco, despite any artistic or literary allusions, proved too much for the censors and the clergy prompting protests and a ban but it is nevertheless a film that showcases the unusual and mesmerising talents and charm of dear Pina who was once nicknamed Notre Dame des Spasmes for her jerky, sudden and awkard movements.

With a twist to finale to die for, there is little option but to recommend The Fire, a wonderful piece of early twentieth century silent film making.

Maurizio Merli header graphic courtesy of Paddy O'Neill of Foxyfide Graphics