A live screening of four rarely seen but remarkable films about ancient Greece and Rome.
The first two document the ruins of the classical world as they appeared to travellers in the early twentieth century. Pompeii and Vesuvius (1906) juxtaposes disturbingly the damage caused by the modern eruption of Vesuvius with shots of Pompeii, the ancient city of the dead. An Excursion in Ancient Greece (1913) takes its elegant sightseers up the Corinthian canal to view the monumental ruins on the Acropolis.
Beautifully shot on location in southern France, Slave of Phydias (1916/17) tells the story of the tragic love a slave-girl stirs in the sculptor for whom she models. The Tragic End of the Emperor Caligula (1917) reaches a turbulent climax when a terrified Christian must dance before the emperor to save her fellow believers from death. Through their enticing use of gesture and look, exotic sets and extravagant costumes, music and movement, these films offer their wartime spectators the opportunity to enter into another world, and to experience the classical past as if they were there.
The screening of Caligula will be the UK premiere of a beautifully restored print from Italy. The other prints were obtained especially for this occasion from archives in Austria, the USA, and the UK. A professional pianist (Stephen Horne, http://www.stephenhorne.co.uk/) will improvise throughout, thus replicating the means by which music once engaged audiences emotionally with cinema’s classical worlds.