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Romans and Romantics$
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Timothy Saunders, Charles Martindale, Ralph Pite, and Mathilde Skoie

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199588541

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199588541.001.0001

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Ancient Rome and Romanticism in Italian Cinema

Ancient Rome and Romanticism in Italian Cinema

(p.363) 18 Ancient Rome and Romanticism in Italian Cinema
Romans and Romantics

Piero Garofalo

Oxford University Press

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

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