Beautiful and very moving!
Barbara (Burkowsky) Underwood | Manly, NSW Australia | 05/20/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For me, this gorgeous old film is far more than just a stepping-stone to later films and cinematography styles, as has been generally said, because it stands on its own as a beautifully photographed and dynamically portrayed story. The simple single-shot or fixed-camera-position approach to filming and the title cards introducing the next scenes did not at all distract, detract or take anything away from the movie as far as I was concerned. In fact, I was so enthralled by the beautiful, authentic-looking Roman sets and costumes that I barely noticed! Furthermore, the picture quality is excellent, the musical score is lovely and perfectly suited, and the acting quite brilliant, particularly by the lead role of Nidia, the blind slave girl, whose performance was very moving and impressive. Not in the least, however, the story with its intrigues, suspense and emotions is as good as any fine movie plot, particularly the emotional climax. Basically, it is a sad love-triangle story - or rather, a 'square' because four people are concerned, and one of them turns out to be a murderer! The spectacular arena and ensuing Vesuvius eruption scenes are actually only secondary to the final unfolding of this sad and stirring tale. Aside from any historic and cinematographic importance this film has, this movie deserves a place in any good silent movie collection."
Impressive for its day and still worth a look
D. H Patterson | Houston, TX United States | 09/26/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This style of filmmaking was soon to be outmoded. The story is presented as separate scenes, each introduced by a title, then enacted. The camera rarely varies its position during a scene. The movies still had a lot to learn, but there is much of interest to see here. The scenes are often beautifully framed and photographed, and there is mounting tension as the eruption nears and the horrors ensue. This is definitely a historical curio, but deserves to widely seen and acknowledged as a stepping stone to INTOLERANCE and all the many subsequent historical epics."
So hard to accurately judge
Anyechka | Rensselaer, NY United States | 01/02/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film was made when the feature-length film had barely been born. This is not going to be an easy viewing experience for most people living over 90 years later. Film-making itself had made great strides since its genesis in the early 1890s, but in a way it was like starting all over again when films moved from only being one or two reels in length to being complete features. They had nothing to go on, no examples from the past; the pioneers in this field really had to find their own way because nobody had ever done it before. Therefore the viewer will notice how stagey the acting style is, the type of acting that often gets sneeringly dismissed and made fun of today as "overacting." What modern people call "overacting" really seems to be a certain style of movie acting that was in vogue during the Teens, when feature-length films were having their growing pains and slowly but surely coming into their own as a legit valid art form. And movie actors in the Teens had no one to model their own acting styles on but actors from the theatre. It's ridiculous and also quite ignorant to mock the actors in this production as having "overacted," because it fails to place this film and movie history in general into proper historical perspective. I'm sure the average moviegoer in 1913 wouldn't have burst out laughing or made snide comments. Also owing to how features were in their infancy, the camera is very static, no real action shots. This also can make the film feel less than gripping and compelling, because everything is so still. Another reminder of just how old this film is is how intertitles are used. Most of them are describing a scene that is about to unfold; we don't see too many intertitles showing the dialogue of these characters. Some of these intertitles also don't exactly match the action they are describing, such as one that says, "Nidia hurries to find Claudius," after which we see Nidia, who is blind, slowly and carefully feeling her way through the streets. While the film makers of the early Teens didn't have much to go on when it came to making features, at least they made the effort to start, and before long they were getting better and better at the craft.
The story concerns a love triangle that begins when Glaucus, a respected citizen of the city of Pompeii, buys a blind slave girl, Nidia, from her nasty abusive owner. He takes her into his household and treats her with kindness. Before long she is in love with him, but his heart already belongs to Jone. However, Jone herself is also the subject of an unrequited passion, that of the Egyptian priest Arbace. Arbace comes to find out about Nidia's predicament, and gives her a special love potion that will capture Glaucus's heart. However, unbeknownst to her, this potion is really designed to affect his mind and ends up making him take leave of his senses. This gives Arbace an excellent opportunity to murder a man and blame Glaucus for the crime. All of the consequences of these things are coming to a head when Mount Vesuvius erupts.
Personally, I found the film pretty slow-going until the last 20 minutes or so, really finally picking up steam shortly before the volcano erupts. And I already like old films. Someone who has more modern tastes will likely have an even tougher time sitting through it. However, if one tries to put oneself in the frame of mind of the average moviegoer of 1913, it really seems a lot better and more interesting. It only seems so relic-like and slow-moving to the average person of today because we're not used to the story-telling devices and type of early camera work used here. Certainly not one I'd recommend as an ideal first silent, though if one is interested in what the Italian cinema was up to in the Teens, I'd recommend 'Cabiria,' which came out only a year later and seems much more advanced and compelling."