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Upcoming film screenings 


Entering the Classical World through Silent Cinema

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A live screening of four rarely seen but remarkable films about ancient Greece and Rome. Two of the films document the ruins of the Acropolis and Pompeii as they appeared to travellers in the early twentieth century. Two are aesthetically rich and immersive feature films concerning the sculptor Phydias and the emperor Caligula. Through their enticing use of gesture and look, exotic sets and extravagant costumes, music and movement, these latter films offer their spectators the opportunity to enter into the classical past and experience it 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 from archives in Austria, the USA, and the UK. They will be introduced briefly by Maria Wyke (UCL) and Pantelis Michelakis (University of Bristol). The professional pianist Stephen Horne will improvise throughout, thus replicating the means by which music once engaged audiences emotionally with cinema’s classical worlds. The venue is a newly refurbished 500-seater theatre owned by UCL.

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Prior film screenings

In May 2018, I organised a screening of the film Quo vadis (1913) at the British School at Rome, for which the pianist Michele Sganga composed and performed an original score. He subsequently discussed his work on the film on Italian television.

In May 2019, Michele Sganga performed a newly commissioned score to accompany the screening of Cajus Julius Caesar (1914 dir. Enrico Guazzoni) at the British School at Rome. He received three standing ovations for his remarkable performance of Caesar’s three-part cinematic biography: romantic melodrama (his secret love for the beautiful Servilia); triumph (his victory in Gaul); and finally tragedy (death at the hands of his friends).  See more about the film and the composer in our archives.

For other screenings of silent films set in ancient Rome see, for example, the Oxford Silent Film Society (May 2017) and a workshop on a silent film about Caligula held at the Cinema Ritrovato festival in Bologna (June 2017).