Quo Vadis? 100th Anniversary

Quo Vadis?
Coming soon “Quo Vadis?” (design by Retrosi, 1913)

1914. There are times when mere words appear totally inadequate to fittingly describe anything great and magnificent, and in attempting a pen picture of the colossal production of “Quo Vadis?” we find language almost fails us to  convey anything like the beauty, fascination, magnificence, and power to enthrall the production possesses. The work of Henryk Sienkiewicz is an acknowledged classic and has stood out amongst works of fiction as containing the most faithful representations of Roman History round the time of the voluptuous Nero. In this great reproduction, the Cines Co. have faithfully followed the lines laid down by the novelist, and we have such a series of pictures as have never previously been presented to the public. Every incident of the novel appears to have been preserved with remarkable fidelity, and while every scene has its point of interest, there is a tenseness and gripping power throughout that cannot fail to impress. There is not a weary moment during the whole of the six reels. Interest is sustained from beginning to end, and when the curtain falls on the last scene, there is a feeling of regret that we have not more to witness, and a wonder that the kinematographic art has reached such a state of perfection. There have been in the past many delightful and remarkable productions, but it will be long before the Cines Co.’s wonderful masterpiece “Quo Vadis?” is surpassed, and we look forward with confidence to the subject proving a real source of pleasure to the public, and one of the most powerful attractions yet seen in the world of pictures.

On all points the subject is a wonderful production. The beauty and magnificence of the various scenes and incidents are remarkable. Whether it be the fascinating scenes in the court of the profligate Nero, the burning of Rome, the striking incidents connected with the persecution of the Christians, the great thrilling depiction of the sports and pastimes in the amphi-theatre at Rome, or the more subdued incidents in the development of the remarkable story, we find the same completeness and mastery of detail. No expense or effort has been spared in the production, which we can well understand has been a work of considerable time and unlimited expenditure.

There is a sharpness and conciseness in the whole production that is at once remarkable and pleasing, and the effect upon the spectator when the whole of the 8,000 feet have been seen is a desire for more. Of the photography we cannot speak too highly; it is beautiful throughout, whilst the acting is of a very high order. There is no exaggeration, but a natural depiction of every character, and while it appears invidious to particularise, we may mention specially the characters of Nero, Chilo, Petronius, Ursus and Lygia, which leave nothing to be desired, for they are portrayed with all the fire and spirit of the ancient Roman regime.

1996. For decades “Quo Vadis?” has been circulating in black and white dupe prints, which are just a pale representation of the original’s tinted glory. Co-ordinated by the Nederlands Filmmuseum in Amsterdam, three European archives – the NFM (Nederlands Filmmuseum), the Cineteca Italiana (Milan), and the NFTVA in London – have now combined to produce a full restoration of “Quo Vadis?” in its original tinted 35mm Italian version. All three archives hold beatifully-tinted original nitrate material: Milan has a Swiss distribution print, with German/French intertitles; the NFTVA holds a later Aubert distribution print with French intertitles; the NFM has a shortened reissue version with Dutch intertitles. All of these were examined, compared, and restored by the NFM. A black and white dupe negative was made in Holland by Haghefilm, and a colour print was produced by Bologna’s Immagine Ritrovata labs using the Desmet “flashing” method, developed by Noël Desmet of the Cinémathèque Royale of Brussels.

Unfortunately, it has not been possible to reconstruct the original Italian intertitles, as they no longer exist in Italy, nor in the Kleine Collection at the Library of Congress in Washington, D. C. An English-language version has been produced for international screening purposes, using translations of the French, German, and Dutch intertitles, plus the original novel.

2013. If you owned “Quo Vadis?”(1913), what would you do with it for his 100th anniversary?

My answer is: Put it on Blu-Ray!

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