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The curious history of Dante on screen

From a silent classic to experimental shorts, there have been interesting efforts to capture the Divine Comedy on film

By Ian Thomson  

Dante in Domenico di Michelino's 15th-century portrayal

Surprisingly, given its immense popularity, Dante’s Divine Comedy has rarely been filmed. But there have been some interesting efforts. In the early 1970s, the Florentine director Franco Zeffirelli asked Dustin Hoffman to star as Dante Alighieri in a short film of the Inferno, the poem’s first book. The film was never made owing to lack of funds but the sketches and set designs are displayed now in the Zeffirelli Centre, which opened in Florence in 2017.

Zeffirelli had been influenced by the…

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