Cabiria (1914)

CABIRIA (1914)
Article #457 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 6-15-2002
Posting date: 11-8-2002

Cabiria is the daughter of a Roman nobleman who is separated from her family during an eruption of Etna, and ends up taken prisoner by pirates and sold as a sacrificial slave. She is rescued, and then becomes a slave to a Carthaginian princess.

This Italian film is only marginally fantastic cinema; it’s inclusion is probably due to some slight science fiction content at one point (Archimedes designs a mirror weapon designed to set fire to the Roman fleet), and to its role as the granddaddy of all sword-and-sandal movies. It’s also the first appearance of the character of Maciste, here the powerful and loyal slave of a Roman who is committed to the rescue of Cabiria; he is for all practical reasons the real hero of the movie. The whole story is told as a backdrop against the wars between Rome and Carthage, and there’s some amazing spectacle; my favorite moments include the whole scene within the temple of Moloch (the set is absolutely stunning), and a scene where the wall of Carthage is scaled via a ladder made of soldiers and their shields. This movie was apparently highly influential on D. W. Griffith and inspired at least partially his work on INTOLERANCE. By itself it is a wonderful example of how far cinematic storytelling technique had progressed, and it still holds up just as well today; if a scene by scene remake were made today, I’m not sure anyone would notice the difference, other than the addition of sound and color.


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