Friday, June 01, 2007

The Production Designer

The Production Designer was another difficult position to fill in. Dante's Inferno, as well as its sequels, deserves the best and nothing less. So, I started investigating and I talked to a few of them until Lord of the Rings production manager Bridget Bourke kindly referred me to Dan Hennah. He had won an Oscar as production designer for Lord of the Rings. After I communicated with him, he said:

"I am delighted to be considered for the Production Design role on such an interesting film. It would certainly be an opportunity to practice all the skills accumulated in the past few years...and no doubt add a few more.

The rich imagery and depth of Dante's vision are a Production Designer's dream. They will provide a grand opportunity in today's world of high tech and low tech blend of film making which allows a convincing marriage of fantasy with reality. While it was many years ago that I read "The Divine Comedy", many images remain."

With these kind of words from an Oscar winner, there was no need to look for anywhere else!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Boris,

I had been meaning to read The Divine Comedy for the last four years and recently began because it fitted with my work as a psychosynthesis counsellor and felt it might be relevant to a particular client. I thought someone must have made a film about this and so began looking.

Then to my delight and amazement I found your film was in production.

I would like to share some information with you about Dante's work, which in all likelihood is new to you, but I think very relevant to any interpretation.

In 1910, a student of Freud used his PhD thesis to write a critique of psychoanalysis. This was the beginning of a new branch (or force) in psychology, which unlike psychoanalysis recognised the higher aspects of human nature - it was a 'height' rather than a purely 'depth' psychology. The author was Italian psychologist, Roberto Assagioli, who like Dante inhabited Florence. Assagioli was a friend of Jung, with whom he shared a rejection of Freud's deterministic, animalistic model of humanity. He refined and developed the approach he called psychosynthesis until his death in 1974, and through this effected a new 'force' in psychology which is today known as 'transpersonal' alongside the other three forces (psychoanalytic, behavioural and humanistic). (It is arguable that Ken Wilber's Integral Psychology is an interpretation or elaboration of Assagioli's approach, although Wilber makes greater claims than this - purporting to have "transcended and included" these four forces of psychology.)

The reason I am drawing your attention to psychosynthesis (and indeed all Transpersonal or Integral psychologies), is because of the special significance that Dante and Assagioli placed on the ways in which The Divine Comedy can be understood and interpretted. These include (like psychosynthesis) its use a map to the development of the human being. Through the trials of exploring human psychological depths (Hell) and ascending (Purgatory) the psychos-piritual heights towards the 'transpersonal' or Higher Self that resides within all (Paradise).

Assagioli explained this as follows.

"Dante's Divine Comedy is a unique performance of human genius, comparable in certain respects only to Goethe's Faust. One of the unique features is that Dante used symbolism with full awareness, for in his theoretical treatise "Il Convivio" (The Banquet) he clearly states that there are four different meanings to the Divine Comedy. The first is the literal meaning. The second is allegorical, i.e., symbolism, but a symbolism, he says, of a human and poetical nature, of which he gives an example taken from mythology. The third meaning is the moral one, which is on a higher level than the allegorical. But there is a fourth and still higher meaning, which he calls anagogic, i.e., leading upwards."

"The central symbolic meaning of the Divine Comedy is a wonderful picture of a complete psychosynthesis. The first part---the Pilgrimage through Hell---indicates the analytical exploration of the lower unconscious [MH: Freud's unconscious, Jung's shadow]. The second part---the Ascent of the Mountain of Purgatory---indicates the process of moral purification and gradual raising of the level of consciousness through the use of active [psychological] techniques. The third part---the visit to Paradise or Heaven---depicts in an unsurpassed way the various stages of superconscious realisation, up to the final vision of the Universal Spirit, of God Himself, in which Love and Will are fused."

"This is the essential meaning, but there is also a wealth of further symbolism. As an instance: at the beginning of the Comedy, Dante finds himself in a dark forest, and is in despair. There he sees a hill illumined [sic] by the sun, and meets the Latin poet Virgil, who symbolises in the poem human reason. Dante sets out to climb the hill, but three wild beasts, representing the unredeemed unconscious, bar the way. Virgil then explains to him that he cannot climb the hill directly, but has first to make the pilgrimage through hell, i.e., experience a deep psychoanalysis, and he leads Dante on this pilgrimage, helping him, encouraging him, explaining to him the various phases of the process."

"Virgil accompanies Dante through the whole ascent of the Mount of Purgatory. But when Dante has reached the summit Virgil disappears; i.e., human reason has accomplished its function and cannot go further. Then the guide becomes Beatrice, who represents Divine Wisdom, and only she is competent to lead Dante into the regions of the superconscious [a 'Higher Unconscious' - cf. Jung's light shadow, the location of repressed or unrealised higher qualities not recognised by Freud or depth psychologies]."

"The main theme or leitmotiv of Dante's Comedy is that of first a descent and then a double ascent---the ascent of the mount of purgatory and then through the various heavens of paradise. This bears an interesting similarity to a modern method of psychotherapy based on the same themes of descent and ascent, i.e., the Reve Eveille of Desoille (Le Reve Eveille en Psychotherapie, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1945). In this method the patient is asked to visualize himself climbing up to the top of a mountain---and in some cases of going further on up into the sky, using any imaginary means such as a ray of light or a cloud. He is also asked to visualise a descent into the depths of the sea, or into a cave going deep into the earth. Desoille has found empirically that during the descent the images which are evoked in imagination are related to the unacceptable or threatening power of the unconscious and also to certain complexes and to images related to parental figures with which negative emotions are connected. In contrast, in the ascent of the mountain there is the evocation of positive and constructive feelings; also newly experienced feelings of love and wisdom are often evoked by this technique."

"It is also considered to be a method of sublimation, since it is possible for the patient to take some of the images encountered in the depths of the earth or ocean and bring them up, symbolically, to the surface, observe them, and then continue with the ascent of the mountain..." (Assagioli, 1993, pp 211-212)

I hope that you will be successful in creating a worthy and inspiring interpretation of Dante's multi-layered masterpiece on the human journey, and that you may find the above information interesting or helpful.

With good wishes,

Mark R Hughes, London UK

m a r k r
@ h a p p y b e i n g
. c o m

Assagioli, R. (1993) Psychosynthesis. A Manual of Principles and Techniques, England: Penguin Group.

10:52 AM  
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3:11 AM  

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