Chapter

Ancient Rome and Romanticism in Italian Cinema

Piero Garofalo

in Romans and Romantics

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199588541
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741845 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199588541.003.0019

Series: Classical Presences

Ancient Rome and Romanticism in Italian Cinema

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This chapter discusses the influence of Romanticism and Rome upon Italy's emergent film industry between 1908 and 1914. Specifically, it argues that production companies drew upon Romantic aesthetics and privileged narratives set in ancient Rome both to legitimize the artistic value of the new medium and to enhance cinema's commercial appeal. After providing an overview of the film industry, Italian Romanticism, and the concept of Romanità, the discussion focuses on three films (The Last Days of Pompeii, Nero or the Fall of Rome, and Cabiria), in which those elements that characterized Italian Romanticism (the appropriation of the classical tradition, nationalism, historicism, the Risorgimento, and art imbued with a civil, political, and moral purpose) are projected onto the screen. The box-office success of historical narratives ensured the industry's financial viability and established film as a relevant and popular art.

Keywords: Cabiria; cinema; film; Italian Romanticism; The Last Days of Pompeii; nationalism; Nero; Risorgimento; Romanità

Chapter.  6870 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Classical Literature

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