On my summer holidays this year I was fortunate to spend a couple of days in the beautiful Italian city of Turin. During my time there I was able to spend some time in the Italian national cinema museum. Originally conceived as a synagogue, The Mole Antonellina was acquired by the city of Turin in 1878 to be used a monument to national unity. In 2000 the spectacular building having undergone an interior refurbishment opened as the Museo Nazionale Del Cinema. The Museum is separated into distinct areas dealing with different aspects of the wonder of cinema and the processes involved in bringing a film makers vision to the screen.
The first level comes under the banner of The Archaeology of Cinema. This level deals with the history of the moving image. Through a series of interactive displays it traces the inventions and innovations that lead to the first film cameras being used to present moving images to audiences. Through developments such as the Camera Obscura, magic lanterns and the Kinetoscope we are shown how these pioneers honed their craft. The exhibits and interactive areas bring the subject to life and reinforce the information presented in an organised and enlightening way.
One level up is The Cinema Machine. This area is dedicated to the craft of film making with well-arranged displays setting out the various facets of technical film production. An area of particular interest was the story boarding display. it was fascinating to see original story boards for some of the best known films such as The Empire Strikes Back translated to the screen. Bringing the various elements of physically creating a film is demonstrated in a specially commissioned film by Davide Ferrario. Over the course of five screens we get an insight into how a film is put together. The elements of filming, lighting, editing, sound and effects are isolated to highlight their importance to the finished product. It highlights the skill, training and imagination involved by a large number of dedicated people. At the end of this level we are briefly introduced to the development of special effects from the earliest techniques developed by George Melies (among others) to matte painted backdrops and the rise of the digital effects we take for granted today.
The next level up is the poster gallery. In rough chronological order it traces the history of the film poster and its use as a publicity tool. What strikes you is that from the very earliest films the poster was deemed to be of the utmost importance. Great care and attention to detail was afforded to the images. Rather than just adverts many of the posters can be regarded as pieces of art in their own right.
The final outer area is dedicated to Cinema and Television. It traces how households have viewed films over the years from the wooden box with the tiny screen in the nineteen fifties, through the decades to the home cinema set up that many have today. It is interesting to see how our habits have changed with regard to films and how the industry has tried to adapt to the changes needs of it consumers.
At the heart of the museum is the spectacular Temple hall. Visitors can stretch out on the chaise longues (with stereo head rests) and take in documentary films covering silent cinema from Turin and the very best dance sequences in classic Italian cinema. The hall is itself is full of film memorabilia and props including a very impressive Alien face hugger and pod. Situated around the hall are a number areas dedicated to different genres and themes. In the areas such as horror (complete with Dracula coffin in the floor), Western, Sci-Fi, Disaster movies, experimental and animation we are presented with a variety of movie clips exploring the various themes associated with the genres. The Western area showed a series of clips showcasing the vastness of the landscapes used as a background to the action and the contrast withthe closed in and cramped staging of scenes in townships and settlements.
There was an interesting 3D area where films from the nineteen fifties such as The Creature from the Black Lagoon and Dial M for Murder introduced audiences to the possibilities of stereoscopic viewing. Comparisons are then drawn with more modern films such a Coraline. What is apparent that the earlier films stand up very well against today’s blockbusters.
The below video gives a short visual taste of what is on offer in the museum.
On occasion there are exhibitions housed in the Temple room and the walkway that spirals upwards towards the roof almost thirty metres above the floor. Currently there is an exhibition featuring the life and work of Martin Scorsese. Through the use of props, film scripts, displays and film excerpts we are walked through the entirety of the directors career. The exhibition is curated with great care and a great deal of passion for the subject. Detailing his early work and his extensive use of New York locations we get an insight into his process and his love of all thing cinematic.
For anyone with a passing interest in cinema the museum is a must see if you are in the Turin area. For only nine euros entry (children are free) there is enough to keep the whole family entranced for an entire day. It is well worth a visit. Highly recommended.