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

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Rediscovering Bianca Virginia Camagni
Emiliana Losma

Last modified: 2010-05-12


In her "Introduction" to Non solo dive. Pioniere del cinema italiano, Monica Dall'Asta writes: "this volume is far from exhausting the range and complexity of women's participation in the Italian silent film industry." Bianca Virginia Camagni is certainly one of those pioneers who deserve to be rediscovered in detail. Our knowledge of this particular figure remains, indeed, incomplete. We lack information about her films – for the most part believed to be lost – and even less we know concerning her biography.

In my paper I will try to interlace two important aspects of Camagni’s highly eccentric and modern artistic experiences. On the one hand, I will consider the influential network of relationships she managed to develop throughout the span of her brief career (1914-1922). On the other, I will try to bring to light more alternative aspects of her talent. Camagni seems to have enjoyed a special status, both internal and external to the world of film production. She worked with such famous artists as Mascagni, Leoncavallo, Verga, D'Annunzio, Zorzi and D'Ambra. Moreover, she managed to open her own film studio in Rome, in 1921. In the meantime, she also took part to avant-garde experimental projects – see for instance her participation in such films as Il re, le torri, gli alfieri [The King, the Rooks and the Bishops]  (Illuminati, 1916) and Fantasia bianca [White Fantasy] (Sepo and Camagni, 1919).

 Her personality and quite peculiar film interpretations combine to make Camagni one of the finest screen artists of her time, as it was recognized by a number of influent contemporary critics. But beside her work as an actress, Camagni also tried her hand as a screenwriter and a director, and was quickly acknowledged and appreciated by both the audiences and the critics. All sources concur in describing Camagni as a woman of uncommon talent and acuteness, endowed with a lively intelligence and a unique culture. While her career reveals her strong desire of success, she was also endowed of social assertiveness, curiosity and passion. She was one of the most educated and sensitive actresses of the Italian silent screen: she could speak several languages and play the piano; she loved the company of writers and artists and enjoyed travelling across Europe. Her personality, films, collaborations and extensive network of relationships made Camagni a very special kind of Diva, at variance with the mainstream type of the time. The freshness of her inspiration and the spontaneity of her expressions are, indeed, rare virtues in the context of Italian silent cinema.

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