Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Quo Vadis? (dir. Mervyn LeRoy, 1951)

I enjoyed Quo Vadis? more than I expected to. Being a 1950s blockbuster based on a nineteenth century novel, it shares with later films like Spartacus a view of Rome as a hotbed of sin and Christianity as the solution. However, since unlike Spartacus it is not only set during a period when there actually were Christians, but during one of the biggest persecutions of Christians, this is a little bit less annoying than when it gets shoved into stories set seventy years before the birth of Jesus.

I was rather unconvinced by the central romance, though I like Lygia, especially for her 'I like what I see, but not what I hear' speech. Marcus Vinicius is a slimeball, which I suppose is the point, since the idea is that he is redeemed by his relationship with Lygia, but still, what on earth does she see in him? The minute he agrees not to rape her after all, she's engaged to him. Urgh. He improves a bit when he runs into a burning city to rescue her, but by then the whole relationship makes so little sense I've stopped caring very much. Both of them are fictitious, though Vinicius is symbolically named, as one of the historical Marcus Viniciuses was involved in the assassination of Caligula.

By Juliette Harrison

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