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Publicity still of Eleonora Duse and Febo Mari in Cenere
Directed by Febo Mari
Produced by Arturo Ambrosio
Written by Febo Mari, Eleonora Duse
Starring Eleonora Duse
Febo Mari
Cinematography Eugenio Bava
Distributed by The Ambrosio Film Co.
Release date
  • 1916 (1916) (Italy)
Running time
38 minutes
Country Italy

Cenere is a 1916 silent film directed by and starring Febo Mari. It is adapted from the 1904 novel by the Nobel Prize-winning Sardinian writer Grazia Deledda. It is notable as the only film performance by of the Italian theater star Eleonora Duse. [1]


Rosalia Derios is an unmarried woman in a small Sardinian village whose lover abandons her before the birth of their son, whom she names Anania. Realizing that she will not be able to raise the child properly, she gives full custody of Anania to her former lover. However, she entrusts the boy with a sacred amulet before she leaves. Anania grows to adulthood and retains possession of the amulet, but he is haunted by his mother’s absence and tries to locate her. He pushes aside his career prospects and cancels his plans for marriage in order to pursue his search for Rosalia. Anania's search proves successful and he locates his mother but Rosalia cannot take the shock of being reunited with her adult son and kills herself. [2]


When Eleonora Duse was approached in 1916 to appear in a film adaptation of Cenere, she had been absent from performing on stage for seven years. Duse expressed deep respect for the source material and its potential as a film. She later explained her return to acting in this production by stating: “I have been persuaded to create the character of Rosalia Derios, from the novel by Grazia Deledda, because it seemed to me that in the sorrowful figure of the mother, all sacrifice for her son, a figure moving in an austere and solemn landscape, would assume the total and clear plastic and spiritual significance that the silent theater must force itself to realize.” [3]

Duse co-wrote the screenplay for Cenere with Febo Mari, her director and co-star.[3] The film was shot over a four-month period on locations across Sardinia.[2]

Duse initially had hopes for Cenere to open a new career in film acting. But upon seeing the finished film, she was disappointed in both the production and her performance. "I made the same mistake that nearly everyone has made," she said after viewing herself on screen. "But something quite different is needed. I am too old for it. Isn't it a pity?"[1] Duse would later write to the French singer Yvette Guilbert with the request not to see “that stupid thing, because you’ll find nothing, or almost nothing, of me in that film.”[3]


  1. ^ a b “Film Threat’s Top 10 One-Hit Wonders,” Film Threat, February 8, 2005. Archived July 22, 2009, at the Wayback Machine. Quote: "Indeed it was, as Duse would never venture before the cameras again, leaving "Cenere" as her only film record."
  2. ^ a b “Grazia Deledda: Voice of Sardinia,” Nobel Prize Foundation, September 2, 2002 Archived January 30, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ a b c “Grazia Deledda” by Martha King, Google Books

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