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ncient art

Europe, Northern Africa, and the Near East, up through the fourth century CE

Jesus Christ Superstar -- 1973
"The "temple" in J.C. Superstar looks a lot like the ruins on Masada, though how they would have gotten permission to film there if it is, is beyond me."
Ethan Robey, Columbia University
True Lies -- 1994
"In True Lies (1994) -- There are beautiful reproductions of Assyrian lion temple guards"
Dick Easton
The Spy Who Loved Me -- 1977
"Most recently I showed Roger Moore sneaking around an Egyptian hypostyle hall as James Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me. Silly as it was, it actually presented the space of the temple more clearly than slides could."
Craig Eliason, Rutgers University
Watchmen -- 2009
"Towards the end of the movie the Watchmen are in this "pyramid" created for a company and they have the Palette of Narmer in a case (and actually refer to it, not by name, but they do mention it). And they also have the seated Pharaohs throughout the pyramid."
Katie Egan
Death on the Nile -- 1978
"What about that Agatha Christie movie in which the protagonists spend a day climbing up the stone blocks of a pyramid in Egypt?"
Hildegard Lindschinger, Wilfred Laurier University
"The unidentified film to which Hildegard Lindschinger refers is Death on the Nile -- full of in situ monuments up and down the Nile Valley."
Jim Bower, Getty Information Institute
The Prince of Egypt -- 1998
"This may be entirely too low brow for art history purists, but I recommend to my intro level students to see (I don't take up class time to show it) Prince of Egypt, the recent animated film. As a mom of three in grade school I've seen it a few times and loved it for its breathtaking evocation of the grand scale and abundant decoration of Ancient Egyptian architecture. Needless to say, as with virtually all films, and especially animated ones, innocent minds may need to be warned that it is fiction and exaggeration, yet based, more or less, on fact."
Lisa Safford, Hiram College
"I liked this movie more than I expected to, but the grossly exaggerated size of all the monuments would prevent me from using it to illustrate ancient Egypt, even for little kids."
Richard S. Ellis, Bryn Mawr College
Time Bandits -- 1980
"Time Bandits (another Terry Gilliam) for Mycenae,and more."
Patricia Trutty-Coohill, Western Kentucky U.
Cleopatra -- 1963
Ben Hur -- 1907
Spartacus -- 1960
"For other films that feature monuments of the ancient world, I'd suggest taking a look at John Solomon's book, The Ancient World in Cinema. Off the top of my head, some of my favorites are Cleopatra, Ben Hur, and Spartacus."
Lee Ann Turner, Boise State U.
"How about the hippodrome and chariot race in Ben Hur?"
Patricia Trutty-Coohill, Western Kentucky U.
Olympia -- 1938
"I have used the introductory scenes of Leni Reifenstahl's Olympia in teaching the Parthenon. Not only does the film wander around the acropolis and give us memorable views of classical sculptures -- notably the Barberini Faun and the Discobolos, which fades into an athlete performing the same motion -- but it works as a good jumping off point to discuss the Greek cult of the male body."
Ethan Robey, Columbia University
The Greek Tycoon -- 1978
"There is a hilarious Anthony Quinn movie -- can't remember the name -- in which Q. is the owner of every famous piece of Greek sculpture ever discovered. GREAT QUIZ MATERIAL."
Adrienne DeAngelis, Rutgers University
"The title of the hilarious Anthony Quinn movie (in which Q. is the owner of every famous piece of Greek sculpture ever discovered) that you can't remember may be The Greek Tycoon."
Enrico Costa, Universitą degli Studi Mediterranea di Reggio Calabria
Jason and the Argonauts -- 1963
"In the 1963 film Jason and the Argonauts, the scene with the harpies appears to have been filmed at the Temple of Hera I (also called simply the Basilica) at Paestum, Italy. I can't be sure if it's the real thing, but if it's not, it looks like a good approximation. This movie is also apparently called Jason and the Golden Fleece and features the animation work of that giant in the field, Ray Harryhausen."
Jill R. Chancey, Univ. of Kansas
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade -- 1989
"This citation comes from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and although it may be considered dubious I have found it useful in class. Toward the end, Harrison Ford battles the Nazi commandant atop a tank that is moving steadily closer to the edge of the cliff. As Ford realizes that the tank is preparing to plunge into the precipice, he looks at the camera with an expression that is strikingly close to the expression worn by Alexander the Great in Lysippos's classic sculpture of the leader. The knit brow, wide eyes, parted mouth, wind-blown hair, and tilted head are shared by the two. I doubt that Ford knew he was imitating the heroic ideal of Alexander, but it certainly made the point with my students that the ideal has become ubiquitous."
Mark White, Wichita State University
Annie -- 1982
"The movie Annie (with Albert Finney and Aileen Quinn) has three references to artworks - the sculpture The Winged Victory, the Mona Lisa and a self-portrait of Rembrandt."
Joanna Duder
Funny Face -- 1957
"I know that in Funny Face (1957) there is a scene in the Louvre showing Audrey Hepburn descending the flight of stairs in front of the Winged Victory. The doesn't really convey the impact of that particular sculpture, but it comes closer than any still shot I've seen."
Sara B. Weber, LSSU
28 Days Later... -- 2002
"In the zombie flick 28 Days Later there are numerous shots of the Laocoon sculpture -now removed from the Vatican and into a military base where a brutal state of nature exists. I have not read (the director) Danny Boyle's reasoning behind the placement of the sculpture, but its appearance alone heightens the tense atmosphere between those residing on the base.
My own interpretation for the juxtaposition is that the director wanted to create a parallel or allude to the story of Laocoon; just as the snakes rose up from the ground to unrelentingly kill a priest and his innocent sons so do the zombies rise and kill without reason or sympathy. The movie does not give a clear explanation for the zombie uprising; however, perhaps by including the Laocoon he was alluding that God or Satan is responsible (like Poseidon's wrath in the myth). Also, in George Romero's Dawn of the Dead it was stated that "when hell is full the dead shall walk the earth." So, a prerequisite for zombies being a sign of Armageddon had already been established and Boyle might be following that tradition.
That's my take anyway, but a more educated point of view by Fr. Bryce Sibley can be found here."
Sean Darby, Penn. State Univ.
Intolerance -- 1916
"Griffith Intolerance gives astonishing reconstruction of Antiques. As do the Tavianis hommage in Babylonia."
Robert Derome, Universite du Quebec, Montreal
Satyricon -- 1969
"Fellini is another example of the difference between art historical accuracy and the film. I have always found his scenes of ancient Rome (in the Satyricon, for example) fascinating, but they are mostly created in an indoor studio and have little to do with real places, or even with the actual appearances of Roman buildings. They suggest more the stripped-down brick and concrete ruins of modern Rome than what Rome looked like during the heyday of Western Empire. At the same time, I thought Fellini conveyed an enormously powerful impression of the life of the Roman empire, one which might not have been possible if his sets had been more historically accurate."
Peter Walsh, Wellesley College
Blade II -- 2002
"I am not certain how useful this citation is but I was very surprised while watching Blade II (2002) to notice that there was a reproduction of Mithras killing the white bull on the wall of an underground reaper vampire lair (there was no other art or decoration). Appropriate certainly, but how many people even noticed it, let alone knew what it was."
Miriam Kriss, New York University
Belly of an Architect -- 1987
"Any Peter Greenaway film: Belly of an Architect for some good Roman architecture."
Nancy Nield, U. of Chicago
Roman Holiday -- 1953
"Roman Holiday offers a somewhat hurried view of various monuments and sites in Rome. "
Sara B. Weber, LSSU
"This movie is a veritable sightseeing journey into Rome.  The DVD version has a chapter entitled "Sightseeing" allowing you to go right to the part where Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn visit the Colosseum (and other sites).  The Colosseum scene offers a slow panoramic view of the exterior and interior of the Colosseum.  I used it in my Art History 101 class to introduce architecture of Ancient Rome and my students loved it."
Joanna Gillespie, University at Buffalo
Gladiator -- 2000
"May I suggest for Ancient art in film, the 360-degree pan of the Colosseum in Rome, which was faithfully recreated with the assistance of archeologists in exact detail from Gladiator by Ridley Scott."
Patricia Chappell, Oregon State Univ.
"I can not understand why Commodus as Hercules is not directly linked on your site to Gladiator. The creator of the story had to have been inspired by the artwork. It is a fabulous piece of art and the story behind it was directly incorporated into the movie's story line. Gladiator - starring Russel Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix tells, if not with precise accuracy, with deliciously close accuracy the story of a gladiator who must contend with the meglomaniacal Commodus, who fancied himself a gladiator. I was fascinated when I discovered that the story I had seen on film was TRUE! I thought Gladiator a historical fantasy. It may have been slightly fictional, but its accuracy astounded me. Looking at the art piece, one can not help but appreciate the fine craftsmanship of Roman artisans. Created at the height of the Empire when art tended toward realism, the marble bust is exquisitely detailed. The details in the sculpture seem so clear that it's hard to believe the piece is nearly 2000 years old. ."
Noelle Hay
Angels in America -- 2003
"In the mini-series Angels in America, Prior's trip to heaven occurs in Hadrian's Villa. "
Agora -- 2009
"Agora, by Alejandro Almenabar and starring Rachel Weisz, recreates the ancient city of Alexandria in the 4th century C.E. It shows great aerial views of the city and its public spaces (theater, Serapeion, forum and of course the lighthouse). Although the reconstruction is hypothetical, it can help the students get a feeling for life in an eclectic Graeco-Roman city, where Egyptian sculptures and Jewish temples coexist with Greek colonnades and Roman domes. The movie narrates the tense religious climate in the city as Christianity rises and violently imposes itself over a dwindling pagan world. The plot revolves about the historical figure of Hypatia of Alexandria, a prominent philosopher and mathematician at the time."
Paloma Rodriguez, Santa Fe College
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade -- 1989
"Another example came to me as I leafed through the Roman architecture chapter of Gardner: the Treasury at Petra was used (facade only) for the climax of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade."
Craig Eliason, Rutgers University
"has anyone mentioned the facade used near the end of the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade with Harrison Ford and Sean Connery? It is, in the movie, placed in the desert, and is the entrance to the resting place of "the holy grail," the cup of Christ. The references to the knightly pursuit of the holy grail (and protection thereof), as well as the notion of medieval chivalry are interesting as well."
Kamille T. H. Parkinson, Essex Railway Station
"The entire last sequence in the film takes place at Petra, in southern Jordan (one of the main Nabataean (i.e. Hellenistic) cities). The rock-cut facade they enter is that of the Khazneh, or "Treasury," which was probably a tomb in reality, not a treasury. The actors enter the space cut into the wall, but this space only extends a few feet back, so that part of the movie is fraudulent. Still, the exteriors and the horse-ride up to the facade are all legit."
Justin Walsh, U. of Virginia
The Man Who Would Be King -- 1975
"For more ancient material, try The Man Who Would be King in which the inner sanctum of a palace in the Hindu Kush is decorated with the Spring fresco from Thera...hard on the willing suspension of disbelief."
Mary Hollinshead, U. of Rhode Island
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