The Flickering Flame (2022 film)
|The Flickering Flame|
Theatrical release poster for the 83rd Montecara Film Festival.
|Directed by||Massimo Voiello|
|Written by||Frederico Maria Mainardi|
|Based on||The Flickering Flame|
by Giorgio Constantino Lacedelli
|Produced by||Enrico Zaffaroni|
Giorgio Amadeo Scorzzi
|Edited by||Kaspar Kocar|
|Music by||Mario Vincenzo Leoni|
The Flickering Flame (Vespasian: La Fiamma Tremolante) is an 2022 Etrurian semi-historical drama based on the 1983 novel of the same name, written by Giorgio Constantino Lacedelli. Directed by Massimo Voiello, the film features an ensemble cast including Elisabetta Carano, Goran Dragović, Marco Gianni, Stefania Caparelli, Giorgio Amadeo Scorzzi, Girolamo Giaquinto, Martino Speri and Allegra Constantino. The film is set in 1483 in the town of Casperia, during the height of the Solarian Inquisition and follows a number of key individuals as an ambitious priest and inquisitor sets about scouring the town of heresy and apostasy.
Filiming took place exclusively in the town of Montequinzio in southern Solaria as a stand-in for the real-life Casperia, due to logistical issues, over 600 of Montequinzio's citizens were invited to take part in filming as extras. The official score was provided by Mario Vincenzo Leoni, who had worked with Voiello on his two previous historical projects. Produced by Meccanica Quantistica and New Horizon, the film will make its debut at the 83rd Montecara Film Festival on 24 October 2022, with a domestic domestic Etrurian and international release set for 6 January 2023.
In 1483 Casperia, a hilltop town 30 miles west of Solaria, noblewoman and daughter of the town’s Mayor, Elenia Maria di Vallerosa (Elisabetta Carano) is penning a letter to her betrothed, Giovanni Cesare Cervini, the son of Solaria-based nobleman and reputed confidante of Pope Urban V. Her chambermaid, Otilia (Stefania Caparelli) remarks on the arrival of six strangers to the town, one of whom was a priest.
Elia Maria and Otilia join the former’s parents – Benedetto di Vallerosa (Marco Gianni) and Giulia Maria (Allegra Constantino) and brother Lucca (Girolamo Giaquinto), for Mass. The townsfolk are surprised to be greeted by a new priest, who identifies himself as Father Aurelio (Goran Dragović) who delivers an emotive homily on heresy and apostasy, before ushering in a chained Father Matteo, Casperia’s priest. Fr. Aurelio reveals himself to be an Inquisitor dispatched by Pope Urban V to investigate heretics in Casperia and claims Fr. Matteo is a barer of a “Mark of Satan” and may have corrupted any one of Casperia’s townsfolk into heresy and apostasy. He vows to cleanse the town of its corruption.
That night, the Di Vallerosa’s as the leading family host Fr. Aurelio and his adjutant, Fr. Cassio (Martino Speri) for dinner. Fr. Aurelio receives use of the town prison and town guard by Mayor Benedetto following an exchange in which Fr. Aurelio reminds him that his family’s status continues at the pleasure of the Pope. Elenia Maria’s protestations of Casperia’s piety are dismissed.
Over the course of several days, several Casperians are arrested by Fr. Aurelio and his entourage. Hysteria and religious zeal fuelled by Fr. Cassio’s sermons in the streets fuel denunciations and rumours.
Eugenio Alberto (Giorgio Amadeo Scorzzi), the town’s wealthiest merchant and a close friend of Benedetto meets with Fr. Aurelio and attempts to bribe him to depart Casperia, believing his presence to be a political ploy rather than spiritual. Fr. Aurelio berates his faithlessness and worship of wealth.
Otilia reports tearfully to Elenia Maria that her brother, Raimondo a blacksmith has been arrested for heresy. The two depart and meet with Fr. Aurelio in Casperia’s Church, demanding his release. Fr. Aurelio denies them and instead invites them to meet with him to urge his confession. At the town’s prison, they find Raimondo blooded and whipped in his cell, unresponsive to Otilia’s calls, disgusting Elenia Maria.
That night, Benedetto urges Elenia Maria to write to Giovanni Cesare, to request his father intercede with Pope Urban V himself to spare Casperia. She agrees but remarks that none of her letters have received a reply for days. They are disturbed by sound and discover Lucca being arrested for apostasy by Fr. Aurelio. The following morning Benedetto is informed that Eugenio Alberto has also been arrested for heresy.
A Public Tribunal is held for the accused, though Fr. Matteo, Eugenio Alberto and Lucca are absent. Fr. Aurelio and Fr. Cassio methodically list the charges and announces their individual tribunals found each guilty of heresy or apostasy. The notes of each are read out to the room, with Giulia Maria read out as a witness to the heresy of Eugenio Alberto, much to Benedetto’s dismay. Fr. Aurelio concludes by granting the condemned a day and night to seek forgiveness. He announces that tomorrow a Public Penance will take place within Casperia’s square.
The following morning, the townsfolk converge on the square for the Public Penance. They find Fr. Matteo, Eugenio Alberto and three others (those who refused to repent following the trial) chained to stakes upon a large platform in the centre. Lucca is chained to chair wearing conical hat and shirtless. As the crowd settles, the accused from the tribunal are paraded through the streets mocked and pelted by the townsfolk before being led onto the square. Fr. Aurelio speaks and praises the town for its vigilance and cooperation, claiming God will reward the faithful. He berates the condemned for their weakness and subservience to the Devil. The condemned, wearing symbolised clothing and their hands covered in candle wax took to their knees and began to repent, mocked and chastised, Fr. Aurelio absolves them and dismisses them to be released. He turns to the shirtless and blindfolded Lucca, who is accused of mocking the Church and apostasy, but having repented is spared the stake. Instead, he is lashed twelve times and drenched in mule urine before being absolved.
Turning to the five chained to the stakes, he denounces them for bearing “Marks of Satan” and for their efforts to corrupt Casperia. He calls them the “Judases of our age” and condemns them to suffer the “fate Judas deserved.” Their pyres are set ablaze and the townsfolk cheer as the five are burnt to death. Elenia Maria flees in tears from the chaotic scene.
Elenia Maria returns home to write another letter to Giovanni Cesare, again pleading for his father’s assistance, condemning the burnings and treatment of her town. Otilia having followed her, is handed the letter and told to hand it personally to the household messenger. She does but is alarmed to find the messenger passing the letter to Fr. Cassio almost immediately. Before she can inform Elenia Maria, she is intercepted by her brother Umberto and Lucca, whom she takes inside to clean.
The Di Vallerosas are reunited, but this interrupted by the arrival of Fr. Cassio and armed men who arrest Elenia Maria for witchcraft. She is taken to the town prison, defrocked and handed a sackcloth before her head is shaved and thrown into a small cell lit only by a small candle.
Days pass without any contact with the outside world until Fr. Aurelio arrives and sits on a stool beside her. She berates him for her treatment, to which he replies to the account of the towns herbalist, also accused of witchcraft, which named her as an accomplice was disproven. She berates him again for the treatment of the town, to which Fr. Aurelio condemns her arrogance for demanding Pope Urban V intercede, revealing his intercepting of her letters. She calls him a monster for burning good men. He goes onto reveal that the reports Pope Urban V he received of Casperia had come from Alessandro Cesare Cervini the father her betrothed. He opines he did so to break the betrothal without dishonouring his family’s name, claiming she would struggle to marry being the citizen of a nest of heretics. He departs as she breaks down, screaming hysterically as the cell door closes.
- Elisabetta Carano as Elenia Maria di Vallerosa: The young noblewoman and daughter of Casperia's Mayor. She is is described in the book and film as "intensely beautiful" and sought after by the leading families of the Ecclesiastical States as a wife for their heirs. She is betrothed to Giovanni Cesare Cervini by the film's start. Carano was a fan of the source material and was the first actor to be cast in early 2021. Carano was one of 220 actors to audition.
- Goran Dragović as Father Aurelio (Aurelio Villari in the book): The Inquisitor-Priest dispatched by Pope Urban V to Casperia. Dragović was the second character to be cast and was personally chosen by director Voiello, impressed by Dragović's portrayal of Cardinal Gregorio di Rienzo in the Gardens of Persephone. Fr. Aurelio is described in the books as one of the more energetic and committed Inquisitors of the organisation under Pope Urban V. The film differs from the book in not revealing Father Aurelio's appointment as a Cardinal-Priest following the events in Casperia. Dragović spent six weeks before filming, receiving elocution lessons to aid him in conducting the Mass scenes in Solarian.
- Marco Gianni as Benedetto di Vallerosa: The popular and kind hearted Mayor of Casperia and patriarch of Di Vallerosa Family. Gianni had played Benedetto di Vallerosa in a theatre production written by Giorgio Constantino Lacedelli, the author of the book in the 1990s. Gianni was the third actor to be cast and like Dragović, was personally chosen by Viello.