Rapsodia Satanica

Italy 1915/1917. Dir Nino Oxilia.

With Lyda Borelli, Andrea Habay, Ugo Bazzini.
Alba’s gowns by Mariano Fortuny.

A prime example of the diva genre, Rapsodia Satanica is a masterpiece of silent Italian cinema. It features Lyda Borelli as Alba d’Oltrevita in a Faustian tale of a woman’s search for eternal youth and worldly pleasures. The most persistent themes punctuating the film are Alba’s narcissism and her manipulation of a thin, diaphanous veil in scenes of seduction, reflection and melancholy. Sensuous, the veil may evoke the craze for exotic dances that swept European and American stage and screen around the turn of the century but in Alba’s hands it is more introspective and eerie than seductive. It assumes a life of its own as it is moulded and layered over her face and body, producing an ethereal, phantasmic effect made even more striking by the use of colour tinting. Alba’s nemesis, the omnipresent devil, also operates his vampire-style cloak to great effect.