Bertini shines, having previously performed the role onstage; she accepted to do a film adaptation on the condition that she also direct it (though she goes uncredited). The real star, however, is the Naples setting, its shoreline making its way into more scenes than seemed necessary, and its waters making for the film’s most striking image, that of two silhouetted lovers floating away on a small boat.
Assunta Spina is a triumph of tableau staging. By contrast, the opening of Il Fuoco, detailing the first encounter of the owl-woman and the burly artist, is as rigorous a piece of editing that I’ve seen anywhere at the period. Assunta Spina fills the frame with layers of depth (above and first still below). Il Fuoco makes play with bold optical POV, especially when the painter is transfixed by his languid model.