Gabriele d’Annunzio was an Italian poet, journalist and playwright who had an important role in Italian literature from 1889 to 1910. One of his poems, L’Onda, is the protagonist of a short movie filmed in Portovenere in 1955 by Italian film director and screenwriter Ermanno Olmi.
Olmi shot the movie in order to test and calibrate a sort of “Italian Cinemascope”. The Archivio Nazionale Cinema d’Impresa has a quote of Ermanno Olmi explaining how the short film came to life:
“In that period, American productions began to be shot in Cinemascope, which ended up having an influence also on Italian documentaries. One of the Donato brothers and a Galileo technician built their own anamorphic lens to reproduce the Cinemascope format, and gave me the job of testing the lens. To check that there were no distortions in the dilation of the images in projection, the best thing was to film a straight horizon, like the sea. So, I mounted this lens on the camera and went to Portovenere to film the horizon. A sea storm began while I was there: Portovenere is fantastic with the sea storms and waves against the church of San Pietro. So, I began to film not only the horizon but also the waves, and even went offshore with a boat to capture a subjective aspect of the stormy sea. D’Annunzio’s “L’Onda” came to my mind when viewing the film later on.”
Olmi then asked actor and film director Giorgio Albertazzi to record his voice over the movie, as he read the L’Onda. The poem, the title of which translates to “the wave”,
seems to capture the melody of the sea and is masterpiece of its kind. It describes the wave – its formation in the quiet cove, its movement and character, the variety of its colors and sounds, the suppleness of its changing form. It is at first a sluggish one, then a capricious and playful one, and the another more animated, varied, powerful, swirling, tortuous, broken by the wind [Gabriele D’Annunzio in France: A Study in Cultural Relations – by Giovanni Gullace].