Cinerama: QuoVadis?

Posted: September 11, 2009 in Cinerama


By Mike Derderian

One of the curses of life is that we are born naked into this world without a map and a compass, tools that will assist us into finding our path, which is not just a follow the yellow brick road routine.

Today’s overture for this column is about my yesterday that I lament, and a long gone past that I was reminded of after a few minuets meeting with a person, a young female filmmaker.

No I didn’t weep myself into bed for there is quite a difference between reminiscing and living in the past— a past that I love when I used to be the film addict that I’m no longer today, unfortunately.

On my return home from that encounter, I withdrew to my quarters, which is a chamber in my own mind along with other things like the spiral staircase room which leads to nowhere.

This mythological place of my own is a world I created through compiling images from books, television and films that got stuck in my head from a very long time.

As I stood there on the shores of my Styx river throwing stones trying to see how far they can bounce off the surface, I realized that I’m lost and have been standing there for a long time.

Sensing my dismay, a strange creature living there suddenly approached me and asked me in Latin a question that took me by surprise.

“Quo vadis? Que Vadis? It said to me and as I stood there numb by fear and with the need to find an answer, the subtitles would translate the question into an English phrase that says where are you going?

So my question to you my dear reader is, do you know where are you going? Excuse me boring you with my usual stories, however, I couldn’t resist using the title of this 1951 production film directed by Mervyn Leroy which recounts how the Roman empire embraced Christianity as a sect.

Starring in the film is ice cool Robert Taylor, who is best known for his western roles, Deborah kerr, Buddy Baer and Sir Peter Ustinov as Nero, a role that earned him an Oscar nomination

Throughout history man’s corrupt nature deemed a necessity for a certain creed that would guide him into righteousness. Humans practiced different religions in order to attain such a goal, however, nowadays and to us Arabs we only acknowledge three of them as divine religions.

Three celestial religions hurled all the pagan Gods of that era into the abyss oblivion. In time Romans gave up such Gods as Jove, Juno and Minerva, and replaced them with the Christian religion, a crime that was punishable by death back then.

Even though the film’s plot is about the transition from Paganism to Christianity, the main plot revolves around General Marcus Vinicius (Taylor), who on his return to Rome finds out that a beautiful woman, called Lygia (Kerr) might be facing death because of her Christian beliefs.

Vinicius in order to save her asks Nero, who is better known in history for the burning of Rome, as a favor to his services to take her as his slave— an act that will soon shift the plot into the classic love story line within a much important scope.

Deborah Kerr’s statuesque figure and marble complexion gave her an aesthetic quality that was emphasized by her passionate defense of Christianity in most of her scenes.

An angle by which only a Hollywood director would dare to squeeze into a film, which is supposedly about Christianity and a transitional phase that will determine the destiny of an empire.

As in every film that was produced in that classical era of the movie making industry, Quo Vadis has all the components of a big production with a less extravagant appearance.

Unlike films like “Cleopatra”, “Gone with the wind”, “Ben Hur and the Sound of Music”, it had a dull grim secular flavor that might come boring to some classical film fans.

The highlight moment in the film are in scenes like the burning of Rome, Christians thrown to hungry lions and Peter Ustinov’s excellent portrayal of Nero that will offer a few laughs on the sideline.

It is a film that offers the viewer a glimpse of history cocktailed with a pint of romance and a plot that would only be found magically in cinema.

Films like Quo Vadis, are only a visualization of man’s journey in life. We are all on a journey that is harder than one would expect. To some it’s short while to others it lasts a lifetime, mine has just begun.

In the end all I can say is quoVadis? quo Vadis? quo Vadis and on the third the cockerel announced daybreak as the sky wept for loss of faith, have you lost yours?

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