Updating the 'Divine Comedy'

Ransom Riggs

Few works of art can claim to be as ambitious, as inspired or as influential as Dante Alighieri's towering fourteenth-century trilogy The Divine Comedy. So it's either an act of totally pretentious hubris or of similarly inspired ambition for a modern artist/writer team to tackle a complete reinterpretation of Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso, as well as the now-classic Gustav Dore engravings that have graced printings of the volumes for the last hundred years or so.

Luckily for Marcus Sanders and modern artist Sandow Birk -- whom we blogged about yesterday -- their vision of a skateboard punk Dante wandering through a Hell, Purgatory and Heaven that look an awful lot like Los Angeles circa right now is at once funny, fascinating and retains enough of the original story's gravitas to work as literature, as well (despite the slacker voice with which the epic poem is told).

My favorite parts, however, are Birk's epic paintings, which the 'net hardly does justice:

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Best of all, there's a movie version of the updated Inferno making the rounds on the film festival circuit -- and hopefully coming to a theater near you. It's "animated" using two-dimensional paper cutouts, illustrated on by Sandow Birk, which are staged in depth on a proscenium stage. It's like nothing we've ever seen! Check it out: