La madre e la morte (1911)

aka If One Could See into the Future
Article 4008 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-20-2012
Directed by Arrigo Frusta
Featuring Paolo Azzurri, Maria Bay, Oreste Grandi
Country: Italy
What it is: Tragic fantasy

A woman, bereft at having her young son taken by Death, seeks out the Grim Reaper and asks that her son be returned. He takes her to a pool that shows how the child’s life would have turned out had he lived.

The English title of this one makes it sound like a work of science fiction, but it’s not; it’s a fantasy in which it is not the future of the world that is seen, but what the ultimate fate of a child would have been if it had lived. When this one popped up on my “ones that got away” list, I commented that it sounded pretty depressing, and sure enough, it is; you really feel sorry for the woman in this one who not only loses her child, but her hope that the child would have grown up to be something wonderful. Like yesterday’s movie, there is at least one truly startling effect; in the opening scenes, when Death picks up the baby, he doesn’t just vanished in the “jump cut” sense we’re used to, but he almost seems to implode. More and more I find myself respecting the early pioneers of cinema.

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