Dipartimento di Musica e Spettacolo - CONFERENZE, Women and the Silent Screen Conference

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Sources and Creation in Francesca Bertini’s Acting
Nancy Irela Nuñez

Last modified: 2010-05-12


My intervention is inspired by the dual role of Francesca Bertini as a role model and an exception, in order to make some general reflections on women as both actresses and stars, from the 19th century onwards. More specifically, I intend to analyse the several different acting styles Bertini was to employ throughout her career, trying to show the relationship that the Italian diva established between such methods and the ensemble of symbolic meanings she consciously conveyed as a character.

To begin, I consider the roles and functions that the figure of the actress assumed in the 19th century, or namely, the meaning the acting profession had for women at that time. In this perspective, I briefly discuss the cases of Sarah Bernhardt, Loïe Fuller, Isadora Duncan, and the courtesans too; with reference to the repertoire of French theatre and pantomime, the Opera, dance, and music-hall. In Italy, the ideal profile of the actress persona was drawn by figures like Eleonora Duse and the writer Matilde Serao. Asta Nielsen was an important model for Bertini too, but of course there are many differences that can be pointed out between them. My analysis of Bertini’s style also goes into a comparison with her many rivals: Lyda Borelli, Vittoria Lepanto, Hesperia and so on. Her rejection of such important production companies as the Film d'Art and Cines is examined with particular respect to the emergence of an early naturalist style during her years at the Celio Film company (perhaps thanks to the leading role played of Baldassarre Negroni). The triumph of such naturalist style would come with Assunta Spina (1915), while an ever more baroque inclination became increasingly evident in her acting in the following years. At the same time, the dialogue between the diva and her directors (Serena, Bencivenga, Mari, Roberti, Ravel) underwent a qualitative change. In addition to the analysis of Bertini as an actress, I also offer a few exemples of how a number of different extra-cinematographic media –  from advertising and journalism to poetry, painting, photography and the graphic arts – all contributed to the cultural construction of her persona.

Throughout such exploration, I will try to let the images speak for themselves. A few rare clips will be screened from some of Bertini’s most significant performances: Francesca da Rimini (Ugo Moth, 1910), Pia de' Tolomei (Gerolamo Lo Savio, 1910), Amore senza stima (aka L'avvoltoio?, Baldassarre Negroni, 1912), Assunta Spina (Gustavo Serena, 1915), Mariute (Eduardo Bencivenga, 1918),  La piovra (Eduardo Bencivenga, 1919), Maddalena Ferat (Febo Mari, 1920), Marion, artista di caffé-concerto (Roberto Roberti, 1920), La serpe (Roberto Roberti, 1920), Il nodo (Gaston Ravel, 1921). 




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