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The historical epic in Italy

by Kate Fortmueller

Italy unified as a nation in 1861 (relatively late compared to other European nations) out of a group of disparate city-states with distinct dialects. Film represented a tool that could unite the Italian people and give them a sense of shared history. As a result, many early Italian films are historical epics (such as Cabiria or The Last Days of Pompeii [1913]) or literary adaptations.

Cabiria is one of the most well-known and influential of these films. Allegedly D.W. Griffith was so impressed by Cabiria that he decided to turn Intolerence (1916) into a epic spectacle.  Gabriele D'Annunzio, famed Italian author and WWI hero, wrote the intertitles for this film.  This sequence, the temple of Moloch, is one of the most famous sequences in the film.  It was revered for its elaborate production design and cast of thousands.  Consider the use of space in this sequence.  How does this reflect changes in the language of filmmaking?

Cabiria (1914) - The Temple of Moloch

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In this sequence Cabiria is taken for sacrifice at the Temple of Moloch, but she is rescued by Maciste.

from Cabiria (1914)
Creator: Giovanni Pastrone
Distributor: Kino Video
Posted by Kate Fortmueller