Few genres have been subject to such critical scorn as the Ancient World epic. Yet, they have regularly achieved huge box office success. This book tells the history of the Ancient World epic from the silent screen successes of Intolerance and The King of Kings through the golden age of the epic in the 1950s (Quo Vadis, Ben-Hur, Spartacus, Cleopatra etc) through to the 1990s revival with Gladiator, its successors in cinema (Alexander, Troy, 300) and on television (Rome).Geoffrey Richards examines the cultural, social, economical and technological circumstances that dictated the rise and decline of each successive cycle of Ancient World epics, analysing each of the great films and assessing their critical and box office success or failure. He also seeks to tease out the hidden messages concealed in the narrative. For historical films are always as much about the time in which they are made as they are about the time in which they are set. Close examination reveals the recurrent use of the Ancient World to deliver messages to the contemporary audience about the present: messages such as hostility to totalitarian regimes both Fascist and Communist, concern at the decline of Christianity, support for the new state of Israel, celebrations of equality and democracy, and concern about changing gender roles. The whole adds up to a fresh look at a body of films that people think they know, but about which they will learn a good deal more.

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