Monday, June 29, 2009

Quo Vadis



Quo Vadis by the Polish author Henryk Sienkiewicz is a jewel of historical fiction. While the 1951 film is excellent, it is dated; the novel, however, transcends time. The heartrending and vivid portrait of Roman life in the days of Nero combines a romance with the acta sanctorum amid breathtaking historical accuracy. The feelings of the young tribune Marcus Vinicius for the Christian maiden Ligia Callina are transformed by sacrifice and suffering from mere lust into profound love and devotion. In the meantime the early Church prepares to face a grueling ordeal at the hands of Nero. The brutality and decadence of Imperial Rome stand in glaring contrast to the indefatigable new sect, guided and instructed by Peter and Paul. The Christians must deal not only with the violence of the pagans but with some of their own members who betray and deceive. Indeed, part of the impact of the novel is the way it conveys continuity of the past with the present. Followers of Christ must struggle with their own sins and weaknesses as much as with the outside world which seeks to destroy them. It was not easy then; it is not easy now.

Henryk Sienkiewicz (1846-1916) received the Nobel Prize for Quo Vadis. He was writing to encourage his Polish countrymen in their many difficulties, and combined superb story-telling with painstaking historical research. Although I prefer the book to the movie, I do not hesitate to recommend the latter. Among 1950's Biblical epics, Quo Vadis is outstanding. Peter Ustinov's performance as Nero is truly something worth watching; few actors could capture the same balance of comedy, pathos and unmitigated depravity. The sets are magnificent as well, and the flow of drama, quite piercing. It is a good way to glean both history and inspiration while being entertained. Share

6 comments:

John Tyrrell said...

Interesting blog and some great pictures.

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, John. Your blog looks very interesting, too! Glad you stopped by!

Julygirl said...

We all, not only observant Christians, have had that 'Quo Vadis' moment when we wanted to choose the easier path. I found the book and film had a profound influence on my life. I feel fortunate to have grown up at the time when 'Hollywood' was making these types of films in contrast to the amoral and immoral fair currently being churned out.

Kirt Higdon said...

Quo Vadis is my favorite novel and the 1951 film was my favorite movie until the Polish film version came out about 8 or so years ago. While not perfect, it sticks far closer to the novel than the 1951 version. I originally saw it at a foreign film festival and it's available now from Netflix.

elena maria vidal said...

Sounds wonderful!

Lauren said...

oh this does sound good! Thanks!