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Dante's Inferno

3.9 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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(Jan 15, 2007)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Hell goes animated as apocalyptic graphic novel artwork and eerie Victorian toy theater converge in this subversively satiric update of a literary classic. Reinterpreted with the use of intricately hand-drawn puppets and stunning miniature sets, this bizarre travelogue narrated by Dante, a hard-living hoodie-clad twenty-something, will take you on a gritty, violent tour of hell that bears a disturbing resemblance to our own world. Featuring the dark, mood-drenched voice of Dermot Mulroney (Zodiac, My Best Friend's Wedding) as Dante, and the wizened pipes of James Cromwell (L.A. Confidential, Six Feet Under) as his ghostly guide, Dante's Inferno is like nothing you've ever experienced before.

Special Features:
  • Commentary With Director Sean Meredith, Art Director Sandow Birk And Head Puppeteer Paul Zaloom
  • Commentary With America's Leading Historian Of Puppetry John Bell And Renowned Dante Alighieri Scholar Peter Hawkins
  • Filming The Inferno Featurette: 12 Days In The Underground
  • Behind-The-Scenes Photo Gallery
  • Original Trailer

Review

Feels like the unholy offspring of Mike Judge and R. Crumb. --Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times

When it comes to punishment, though, nothing takes the place of the
classics. What served T.S. Eliot well enough also inspires director
Sean Meredith in DANTE S INFERNO (2007; Brattle March 23 at 7:30 pm,
with Meredith). Updated in setting if charmingly retro in technique
a crude but effective Victorian cardboard puppet theater Inferno
remains faithful to the original while cleverly revising it for the
present day. Here Dante finds himself in the middle of his life hung
over and in despair, broke and with a non-functioning cellphone,
passed out in an alley. Virgil emerges from the shadows with a
mission to redeem him for the sake of the deceased and beloved
Beatrice, and off they go into a 2-D hell of a distinctly 21st-
century cast.

Dante himself had no qualms about settling political grudges in his
epic, and Meredith also indulges in an agenda, though it s not so
easy to peg. Ronald Reagan and even a pre-mortem Dick Cheney figure
among the damned, but so too does JFK (lust got him), and the
religious right will be glad to know that there s a special place in
Hell for gays, at least in Meredith s version. Although its slapstick
sometimes overshadows its ingenuity, there s enough of the divinely
comic in this Inferno to justify a pair of sequels. --Peter Keough, Boston Phoenix

DANTE'S INFERNO. In 2004, artist Sandow Birk collaborated with author
Marcus Sanders to create an illustrated retelling of Dante
Alighieri s Divine Comedy using hallmarks of contemporary America
rather than Dante s Italy. Now, with the help of writer/actor/
puppeteer Paul Zaloom and director Sean Meredith, Birk has adapted
the first part of it into a movie with sets and characters made
entirely from cardboard cutouts, all of which are elaborately hand-
drawn. Not just anybody could pull off a movie laden with characters
who are quite literally two-dimensional and inexpressive, but the
vocal talents of Dermot Mulroney as Dante and James Cromwell as his
spirit guide Virgil go a long way both sound like they're having more
fun than they ve enjoyed in ages. The overall effect is like seeing a
gigantic Jack Chick tract come to life, albeit one with a deliberate
sense of irony rather than the accidental kind so often found in the
infamous religious pamphleteer's handiwork. Much of the satire sounds
thuddingly obvious on paper gay people being forced to dance to house
music for eternity, say, or Ulysses talking Bush-speak about
liberating Troy but the sheer level of artistry involved is
immersive and like nothing you ve ever seen on the big screen. Easily
one of the most original films of the year, and probably one of the
best, too. Here s hoping the team has it in them to adapt the rest of
Dante s trilogy. And locals may be amused to know that the entirety
of Orange County is condemned to the same level of hell as Enron and
Halliburton. (Sat., 6 p.m. at Edwards Island) --Luke Y. Thompson, OC Weekly

When it comes to punishment, though, nothing takes the place of the
classics. What served T.S. Eliot well enough also inspires director
Sean Meredith in DANTE S INFERNO (2007; Brattle March 23 at 7:30 pm,
with Meredith). Updated in setting if charmingly retro in technique
a crude but effective Victorian cardboard puppet theater Inferno
remains faithful to the original while cleverly revising it for the
present day. Here Dante finds himself in the middle of his life hung
over and in despair, broke and with a non-functioning cellphone,
passed out in an alley. Virgil emerges from the shadows with a
mission to redeem him for the sake of the deceased and beloved
Beatrice, and off they go into a 2-D hell of a distinctly 21st-
century cast.

Dante himself had no qualms about settling political grudges in his
epic, and Meredith also indulges in an agenda, though it s not so
easy to peg. Ronald Reagan and even a pre-mortem Dick Cheney figure
among the damned, but so too does JFK (lust got him), and the
religious right will be glad to know that there s a special place in
Hell for gays, at least in Meredith s version. Although its slapstick
sometimes overshadows its ingenuity, there s enough of the divinely
comic in this Inferno to justify a pair of sequels. --Peter Keough, Boston Phoenix

DANTE S INFERNO. In 2004, artist Sandow Birk collaborated with author
Marcus Sanders to create an illustrated retelling of Dante
Alighieri s Divine Comedy using hallmarks of contemporary America
rather than Dante s Italy. Now, with the help of writer/actor/
puppeteer Paul Zaloom and director Sean Meredith, Birk has adapted
the first part of it into a movie with sets and characters made
entirely from cardboard cutouts, all of which are elaborately hand-
drawn. Not just anybody could pull off a movie laden with characters
who are quite literally two-dimensional and inexpressive, but the
vocal talents of Dermot Mulroney as Dante and James Cromwell as his
spirit guide Virgil go a long way both sound like they re having more
fun than they ve enjoyed in ages. The overall effect is like seeing a
gigantic Jack Chick tract come to life, albeit one with a deliberate
sense of irony rather than the accidental kind so often found in the
infamous religious pamphleteer s handiwork. Much of the satire sounds
thuddingly obvious on paper gay people being forced to dance to house
music for eternity, say, or Ulysses talking Bush-speak about
liberating Troy but the sheer level of artistry involved is
immersive and like nothing you ve ever seen on the big screen. Easily
one of the most original films of the year, and probably one of the
best, too. Here s hoping the team has it in them to adapt the rest of
Dante s trilogy. And locals may be amused to know that the entirety
of Orange County is condemned to the same level of hell as Enron and
Halliburton. (Sat., 6 p.m. at Edwards Island) --Luke Y. Thompson, OC Weekly

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Dermot Mulroney, James Cromwell, Paul Zaloom, Martha Plimpton, Dana Snyder
  • Directors: Sean Meredith
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Unrated
    Not Rated
  • Studio: TLA Releasing
  • DVD Release Date: January 15, 2007
  • Run Time: 88 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001ANE3AO
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,562 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Dante's Inferno" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A. B. King VINE VOICE on June 19, 2008
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Ovation TV is showing this film in their animation week. Thank you, Ovation.
As Virgil says, "I don't like puppets." But I will make an exception for this work of art. The technique is similar to the Shadow Puppetry of SE Asia. At one point, Ulysses introduces a movie of what he did after Troy. The "movie" uses the traditional shadow puppets to show Bush's fantasy of bringing democracy to the Middle East. The entire movie is clever in its use of the puppetry.
This is the ultimate message movie with heavy-handed commentary. But hey, it's Dante's tour of Hell, no subtlety needed. I have only read summaries of the original story so cannot tell you how close it is to Dante's version. Beatrice makes a token appearance. But the people shown range from Lizzie Borden to the man who set up the Jews to be blamed for the crucifying of Christ. There's even a surprise guest from the Bush Administration. Fox News provides some transportation.
Gay men are shown being forced to dance to techno music. Someone is condemned for downloading Metallica. Several Popes show up, including John Paul II. Somehow you will be offended by this movie. Get over it.
I am looking forward to owning my own copy so that I can pause the film and read the signs on the scenery.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Most people who don't study literature may wonder 'where's the punchline?'

Right here, twirling a feather at your nose and tickling so hard that you feel the need to speak to a priest. This version of Dante's Inferno is nothing short of divine: the scenery, the characters, the portrayal of Hell... everything almost makes you forget previously reading Dante's illustrious epic poem if indeed you ever did. And if not, this is a great way to be introduced to the titan of classical epics. Despite the use of cardboard cut-outs as puppets, Dante's Inferno colours the realm so brightly that in many cases, I have seen folk read the poem based on their enjoyment of the film. And that says a few somethings to me.

The visuals are wasted upon any HDTV, but larger screens make the elaborate designs fuller and easier to make out the subtleties, and there are plenty. Ditto with the sound design. You aren't watching this for the HD experience. Not at all.

There are a few bonus features, most noteworthy being the commentary tracks, both of which are enjoyable; the second of the tracks, the recorded opinions of a renowned scholar makes quite a few poignant statements that will make most people begin to wonder.

Like most works of years gone by, everyone who is anyone in literature or criticism will cite various 'true meanings' of the 'literary intent' of the work. Shut off that part of your brain, please. Grab some popcorn. Invite some friends over and have a gas.

Then, when everyone leaves, you are free for your theological introspectives. Just don't forget to laugh at yourself.
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Format: DVD
Likewise, I also saw this on OVATN. Despite this film being composed mainly of 2-D cardboard pieces (with the exception of God and Lucifer), the low budget doesn't stop this film from being entertaining. Theme and message aside, this film gives plenty of laughs for those who can appreciate it's various forms of humor (from political, historical, to some slapstick). Hilarious to see some famous political figures in certain levels of hell, especially Fox News somewhere in the 7th or 8th (can't remember exactly, but somewhere around there), thus making a statement at how fake and/or biased the news is when it comes to stories, implying that they tell half truths or blow a story out of proportions making them whole lies. That's just a tip at the iceberg when it comes to the parodies this remake of a classic story makes upon the modern world. If you can withstand the cardboard pieces, you'll be in for an interesting form of entertainment.
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Format: Amazon Video Verified Purchase
A solid adaption of a classic work, this movie manages to capture the original's tone by changing rather than staying faithful. The circles of hell are all there and mostly the same but the surrounding and characters have all been modernized into recognizable stereotypes or reference. Rather than being a lame attempt to modernize, these changes actually reflect the way Dante had intended his contemporary audience to see the poem, and make for a version of the Divine Comedy that everyone can find funny, without combing through pages of footnotes to the reference. It's not perfect, but its flaws are small and forgivable.
The most polarizing part of this adaption is the visual "puppet show" style. It takes a lot of getting used to, and, while I'm still not a huge fan of it, I've come to enjoy it for the unique visual opportunities it allows.
If you're a high school kid looking to find a movie version so you don't have to read the book, first off shame on you, but secondly this is the one you want to watch before you read the poem. The modernization makes the messages much clearer and will help you significantly in understanding the original poem which yes you will still have to read after watching.
As for those of you who are fans of Dante's divine work, this is an interesting interpretation and definitely worth the time to watch. Give it a rental, since Netflix dropped it for no good reason.
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