Quo vadis book & film
Quo vadis … in film
The novel is of the same age as cinematography… And thus from the very beginning film-makers have perennially reached out for it.
7 „historical scenes” shot in the pioneer years of cinematography and 4 feature-film adaptations. „Quo Vadis” is among most frequently adapted works of world literature. It accompanies such masterpieces as Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Don Quixote, Robinson Cruzoe and Anan Karenina. The image of ancient Rome and the beginnings of Christianity created by film-makers – Sienkiewicz’s followers – has moulded the historical awareness of millions of people throughout the generations.
In 1899 in Lumiere brother’s firm, a film a few dozen seconds long edited Neo Testing Poison of Slaves was made. In 1901 Ferdinand Zecca shot a film composed of a few scenes entitled „Quo Vadis”, and Lucien Nonquet made The Martyrdom of Christians. In the years 1908-1909 Georges Melies in his Civilisation over the Ages shows scene of poisoning slaves and the fire of Rome and Edwin Porter shot in the USA Nero putting fire to Rome. Luigi Maggio directs in Italy a motion picture he called „Nero”. In 1909 a film directed by Andre Calmettes entitled In Times of First Christians was made by the French production house Film d’Art.
In 1912 Enrico Guazzoni directed an adaptation of Quo Vadis, which was filmed in Italy. The film, in which crowds of extras were employed, showed the fire of Rome, an orgy in Nero’s palace, Christians thrown to the lions, human torches, Petronius’ death. The film was tinted red in places where the scenes of burning of Rome were shown. In 1924, also in Italy. Gabriello D’Anunzio (the poet’s son) and George Jacoby directed Quo Vadis with famous German actor, Emil Jannings, playing the part of Nero. In 1951 Metro Goldwyn Mayer decided to produce Quo Vadis pioneering the sound version with Mervyn Le Roy directing and a wonderful cast (among others Robert Taylor, Deborah Kerr, Peter Ustinov). The film, even though mediocre from the artistic point of view, was a financial success.
In 1985 Italian television produced a six-part television series Quo Vadis directed by Franco Rossi.
Sienkiewicz finished writing Quo Vadis on February 18, 1896. A few months later enthusiastic reviews appeared in the world press. In 1898 Quo Vadis was one the most widely read novels in the USA. As Sienkiewicz was a Russian citizen and Russia had not signed the so called Bern Convention on copyrights, he frequently did not get any royalties for publication of his novel abroad. Contrary to this, translators made an excellent money on it. Thanks to his translation of Quo Vadis an American Jeremiah Curtin, could travel all around the world. Quo Vadis, Nobel Prize winning 1905 with time the novel found a place on obligatory reading list for students in many countries. Up to now it has been translated into 48 languages and published in more than 80 countries.