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Word and Image: Competitive Adaptation in the Feature Film Quo vadis? (1913)

(2020) Word and Image: Competitive Adaptation in the Feature Film Quo vadis? (1913). [Book]. In: Wyke, MDC and Wozniak, M, (eds.) The Novel of Neronian Rome and its Multimedial Transformations: Sienkiewicz's Quo vadis. (pp. 143-163). Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK.

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Abstract

The pioneering Italian film Quo vadis? (1913, dir. Enrico Guazzoni) is widely recognized as a turning point in both film history and the popular reception of the ancient world. Its feature-length adaptation of the Polish novel sought to nationalize the Italian public through the presentation of a common cultural heritage in the Roman past, to raise the commercial prestige of the Italian film industry in global markets, and to increase the artistic status of cinema and legitimate it as a respectable form of entertainment. Its use of nineteenth-century historical fiction also provided a radically new way of experiencing Neronian Rome, related to but distinct from the reconstruction of the Roman past in other high cultural forms. The film achieved substantial success, reaching spectators of all classes throughout Italy and across the world. Yet when it was first released, some critics deplored it as cheap, facile ‘wordless images’—a harbinger of a ‘cinema age’ that would threaten the survival of theatre, the book, and even literacy itself. This chapter draws on recent work in adaptation studies to reconceptualize the relationship between the Italian film and the Polish novel as more complex than image to word. And, through its analysis of the afterlife of Sienkiewicz’s novel on screen, this chapter explores cinema more broadly as a mode of expression that is not inferior to the book but more varied, and in possession of extensive ideological and aesthetic, as well as mass-market, reach.

Type: Book chapter
Title: Word and Image: Competitive Adaptation in the Feature Film Quo vadis? (1913)
DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198867531.003.0009
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780198867531.003.0009
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Quo vadis, Henryk Sienkiewicz, historical novel, reception of ancient Rome, screen adaptation, Italian silent cinema, popular culture, Enrico Guazzoni, transmediality
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Greek and Latin
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10087843
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