Projecting the Past: Ancient Rome, Cinema and History (New Ancient World)

Projecting the Past: Ancient Rome, Cinema and History (New Ancient World)

Maria Wyke

Language: English

Pages: 248

ISBN: 0415906148

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Brought vividly to life on screen, the myth of ancient Rome resonates through modern popular culture. Projecting the Past examines how the cinematic traditions of Hollywood and Italy have resurrected ancient Rome to address the concerns of the present. The book engages contemporary debates about the nature of the classical tradition, definitions of history, and the place of the past in historical film.

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heavily in the production of films (as they had in the manufacture of automobiles and aeroplanes) in order to raise Italy to the ranks of the great industrial powers and to affirm for it a position of commercial prestige on foreign markets. As a result of capital investment, industrial competition, and the economic and aesthetic need to increase the artistic status and range of motion pictures, Italian films rapidly increased in length; developed their own formal strategies of editing and camera

the perception of the dimensions of the royal palace’s architecture, the movement of the armies beneath the gaze of the cinecamera-Moloch, the sway of the figures knelt before the altar of the eternal fire. Demoniacal music accompanies the bloody scenes, the aroma of incense carries onto the film the odours of the temple…. For the first time cinema pretends to a total, definitive, conquest of the sensible world.27 Early Italian cinematic histories of Rome such as Quo Vadis? and Cabiria had been

be “friendly” witnesses before HUAC.107 Yet, towards the close of Spartacus, after the rebel army has been defeated and the surviving slaves taken prisoner, a Roman soldier announces that their lives are to be spared on condition that they identify the body or the living person of Spartacus in their midst. Rather than do so, the slaves rise up in turn to declare “I’m Spartacus.” As the camera focuses first on Crassus perplexed by such behavior and then on Spartacus moved to tears, as the musical

often accompanied by grand premieres, huge quantities of publicity, and enthusiastic accolades.35 While reviewers at the time of the film’s release dwelt largely on the fine cinematography and 155 careful historical reconstructions of Marcantonio e Cleopatra, a year or so later the film critic Vachel Lindsay drew attention to the imperialist ambition that underlies Guazzoni’s display of ancient sites, oriental magnificence, and battles on African soil. According to Lindsay, Guazzoni’s

section on the history and legend of Cleopatra, the program declares: Modem scholarship has pieced together a reasonable interpretation of events that for 2000 years had captured the imaginations of playwrights, biographers, novelists. Considerably altered now is the popular exaggeration of her as “the temptress of the Nile.” Beautiful and seductive, Cleopatra was, but she was also a hereditary ruler, a woman of rare spirit and courage, cosmopolitan and yet superstitious.89 As the film’s

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