Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo di Henryk Sienkiewicz. Scgf.: Vincent Lorant-Heilbronn. Prod.: Pathé Frères. DCP. Bn
The French translation of the novel Quo Vadis? appeared in 1900, and the following year Pathé produced the first cinematographic adaptation: “Quo Vadis? is certainly one of the greatest literary successes of our time. This work has been translated into every language and millions of copies have been printed. It is a novelty, so to speak, which we cannot allow to escape us. To try and adapt the whole book would be pretentious and impossible; so we have selected the most interesting scenes and arranged them in one film” (Pathé Catalogue, March 1902).
The two scenes they selected are Nero’s Feast and the Burning of Rome, both of them present in the print recently rediscovered and preserved by the CNC Archives Françaises du Film – only a few meters are missing compared to the full original length of 65 m. A parenthesis – naming two types of gladiators in the first paragraph of the synopsis in the sales catalogue points to the popular 1872 painting Pollice Verso by Jean-Léon Gérôme, partly reenacted in the film. The same painting was explicitly cited in the 1913 version of Quo Vadis? and was the starting point for Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (2000).
“The story takes place in Rome in the year 64 of the Christian era, under the reign of the Emperor Nero. We are on the Palatine. Nero’s court enters for the festival under the porticos that open onto the gardens overlooking the panorama of Rome… Nero lies on his purple bed next to the Empress Poppea, who has brought Lygia with her. Lygia is troubled at the sight of this fabulous luxury. The festival begins, enlivened by a fight between gladiators (mirmillon and retiarius) and by the lascivious dances of the Gaditanes” (Pathé catalogue).