Andrea Mariani | Cabiria
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Franziska Peschel on Cabiria (1915)

The demonization of fire


A wriggling child, sacrificed to the jaws of the hungry god Moloch, devoured by flames in front of a cheering crowd who wave burning torches and dance out of joy.

The behaviour of the Carthaginian people demonstrated in the crucial sequence of the sacrifice is barbarous, cruel. Quickly, the Carthaginian are exposed as the evil player. Not least because they use fire for their ritual, which has already a bad reputation at this point of the movie (and of course because they sacrifice helpless kids, but back to the fire).

It is a key element driving the story towards its turning points. But other than dramaturgic, it has also a highly symbolic value. It serves as an instrument for polarisation and as a bridge from the historical era depicted in the movie to the contemporary political climate in Italy in the 1910s.

While the barbarous Carthaginian are fascinated by the flames, they have another notion in the harmonious life of Sicilia. The first sequence of the movie establishes the civilized and harmonious life in the house of Batto in Catania, Sicilia: people moving slowly and illustriously, the costumes show wealth and elegancy.

Cabiria and her servant Croessa play with dolls in the garden until her father and mother come, the small girl runs towards them to embrace her father.

The girl Cabiria is filled with joy and kindness as is the relationship to her father and her servant. It is only due to the eruption of Mount Etna and the following fire that the sequence is resolved in destruction. Everyone is suddenly scared and fleeing. In this confusion the servants try to escape. The fire allows them to get to the secret treasury of their master Batto and to steel his coins. This unmoral behaviour is only made possible by the destructive force of the fire. It allows the tragic kidnapping to happen which is the foundation of the plot. After the presumed loss of their child Batto and his wife show a strong emotional attachment.

While in Sicilia the fire is the dark force that destroys civilized society, in Carthage it is part of culture. This polarisation is in fact a highly politic message considering the political climate in Italy in the 1910s and 20s. The rising nationalist ideologies in the frame of colonisation efforts in Libya gave the issue of Cabiriaa value for contemporary debates. Considering the role Gabriele D’Annunzio took in the fascist Italian movement after 1919, this politic orientation seems likely.

Even in the depiction of the battle between Hannibal and the Romans it’s easily distinguishable who are the evil ones. Archimedes, the creator of the crucial weapon is insanely attracted by the power of the fire that destroys the Roman ships.


Seeing the ships catching fire he gets a dreadfully look in his eyes, he praises the destruction with expressive gestures and yelling.

At this point of the movie it is yet clear that the protagonists who are attracted by fire must be enemies of the Romans alias the god ones. Maybe it is due to this political notion, that the movie was successful, even after the great cinematic developments in the following decades.

Chen Xingtong on Cabiria (1915)

The story of Cabiria took place at the Punic Wars in the third century BCE which was divided into several episodes, The first episode showed at first, it was peaceful and happy to see a routine life of a huge noble Roman family while a disaster came suddenly and plunged them into terror. Then Croessa and Cabiria came out to be sold in the marketplace of Carthage, saved as she ws about to be sacrificed to Moloch. Maciste—a muscular African slave who, on behalf of his Roman commander, rescues the incarcerated heroine in enemy territory.As the film goes on, the epic aspects increase – battles are fought, kings are captured, armies surrender, towns are sacked.

The film ends on a triumphant note, affirming Rome’s supremacy over the all the people of the world,which came on the heels of Italy’s victory in the Libyan War of 1911-12, and it was one of many epics produced just prior to World War I.



Maciste, with his strength, vitality, and virility,and the kindness and goodness of his character,who was chained for years to a grindstone, breaks his chains, is imprisoned, forces apart the prison bars, hurls his enemies to their deaths,embodied the nation and the national spirit that pervaded Italy in the first half of the twentieth century. Maciste proved himself more than just physically fit. He came to serve as a paragon of the strongman’s metamorphosis from icon of ancient glories of the classical film epics, so popular in the early years of Italian cinema, to exemplary symbol of modern Italian heroism.

As for character, Maciste’s role in the narrative is central and crosses various emotional and dramatic registers. Many of his scenes are quite humorous, particularly when he and Fulvio axilla become inebriated as they take refuge in a wine cellar. Maciste also has moments of tenderness on screen; for instance, in one scene he plays with the young cabiria on his lap and tends to her in an almost maternal fashion. Attraction and narration work well together when the scenes expressed about the characteristics of Maciste and the story.There are no true closeups in “Cabiria,” although there are medium and medium-long shots. The typical shot stands back far enough to incorporate a great deal of architecture along.The lack of close-ups gives us a hard time to feel strongly for the characters or even give them the characteristic symbols we are so used of today. It also is extremely story-based and rely heavily on inter-titles.


It should be admitted that new technology revolutionizes behavior, transforms the cultural landscape, sets significant mutations in motion and makes it possible to let people dissolve in the plot and to pass cinema on to a new cultural, artistic and media order. The cinema at that time is completely offered a fully immersive experience for the audience, especially in elaborately staged battle scenes, a stunning desert-crossing sequence, play with natural light. They hide characters in the shadows while others are fully illuminated. We watch the sun fade over the desert and the slow motion of people across it. And the plot features strategic appearances by the Roman military leader. In addition to its elaborate set design and groundbreaking moving camera, Cabiria’s other technical innovations included strategic use of artificial lighting, ornate costume design, and a complexity in plot previously unseen in Italian cinema. Scenes of the eruption of Mount etna, the human sacrifice at the Temple of Moloch, and Hannibal crossing the alps reveal the unique range of special effects and inventive use of color that the film achieved.


It is noted that the musical accompaniment featured a live orchestra playing an original score in this film but versatile solo piano on the soundtrack after. In so-called early cinema era, not only was early cinema, as a rule, unaccompanied by recorded sounds; in addition, its viewers were not always seated in straight rows or subject to a strict code of silence. So it had been improved a lot compared with the early cinema, and in particular, the premieres and showings of Cabiria around italy, and later around the world, were major and unique events, highly promoted and publicized by Itala with elaborately designed posters, brochures, and programs. in Rome, for instance, the noted pilot Giovanni Widmer distributed foyers from the air on the day of the film’s premiere.



Yet in its particular way, “Cabiria” is beautiful and enthralling. In his novel The Book of Illusions, Paul Austerhas a remarkable passage about the appeal of silent films:

“They were like poems, like the renderings of dreams, like some intricate choreography of the spirit, and because they were dead, they probably spoke more deeply to us now than they had to the audiences of their time. We watched them across a great chasm of forgetfulness, and the very things that separated them from us were in fact what made them so arresting: their muteness, their absence of color, their fitful, speeded-up rhythms.”

Sayumi Kometani on Cabiria (1915)

In this very first post in the blog, the target of the research is an Italian silent film called Cabiriawhich was made in 1914. In the beginning, a concise introduction to the film, its conspicuous process of the production, and technical analysis will be given.


First of all, I would like to give a very brief summary of Cabiria. Cabiria: a daughter of Batto and her nurse Coroessa are kidnapped by some pirates during the Last Days of Pompeii. She is sold as a slave in Carthage to be sacrificed to god Moloch. A Roman spy Fulvius and his slave Maciste rescue her and she ends up in the queen Sophonisba’s care. In the next ten years, after many wars and Carthage falls to the Romans and Cabiria returns home.



There were also several other factors which feature Cabiriain the course of producing the film. One of them was the director: Pastron’s play. He had many responsibilities in different aspects of the production. He was not only in charge of directing the film but also the set, costume design, shooting, and editing. The introduction of the new technics that Pastron demonstrated later made Cabiriato transform a significant cultural landscape.

Speaking of characters, there was one character who especially caught my attention for the technical use of camera movement to shoot him. There was an interesting scene in which a man appears on the screen for the first time, who later helps Fuvius and Maciste to hide when they are running away from pirates to protect Cabiria. Most of the scenes were taken by a fixed camera and from objective perspectives. In this scene, he was shot as if he was talking to spectators: looking directly into the fixed camera. He was distinguished from other characters by the effective technic of shooting-angle. As one of the spectators, it was easy to see that the man had an important role in the movie when I first did not know about his role at the very first time he was revealed.



To provide an analysis on, I will introduce two kinds of system in attractions. Firstly, “system of monstrative attractions” was dominated early in the film’s history until around 1908. In this system, filmic monstration and attraction were always primary instead of film narration. Secondly, “system of narrative integration” kept its domination until 1914 which is the year Cabiriawas shot. Within the system of narrative integration, close-ups, high-angle shots, and tracking shots had more functioning than within the system of monstractive attractions.

These systems were illustrated in Cabiria. One of the outstanding techniques that was used in the film was close-up of camera’s movement. Some of the scenes in the film were distinguished by the influential function of close-up. There were also a few black screens without any comments nor narration that were placed between scenes. These effects were not applicated frequently. They were exercised in order to emphasize some scenes or characters. Considering the era when the project ofCabiriastarted, it is easy to contemplate that the system of narrative integration as stylistic choices of camera operators was illustrated in the film since this system extended its domination up to 1914. You are able to see the more functional use of camera operators.

With the outstanding way of producing the film and the introduction of the new techniques,Cabiriawas a successful project that became a significant cultural landscape.


Raina Roberts on Cabiria (1915) / The Temple of Moloch

The Temple of Moloch scene captures the increased narrative complexity and the improvements made in set design and spectacular effects which contributed to making Cabiria a stand-out film of its time.

For the narrative, this scene is of crucial importance because it is when the protagonists meet. This scene is a thrilling moment of tension and suspense, and a turning point in the plot. Furthermore, Maciste is established as a hero, as he is the one who courageously grabs Cabiria from priest.

In the scene that follows the establishing shot, initially, the fire is the only thing visible against a black background. Slowly, more light fills the screen, illuminating the priests standing behind the flame. The gradual addition of light adds to the sense of drama in the scene, and creates a sophisticated shot. This shot only lasts a few seconds between repeating intertitle cards, creating a moment of intensity.


What follows is one of the most compelling shots in the film. There’s a close-up on a hand, raised in the air, held in a fist, eerily illuminated by flames that flicker on either side of it. The fingers slowly move upwards as the fist unfurls. The fire creates alternating sections of light and shadow against the palm of the hand, evoking a spooky and dramatic atmosphere. This shot is the only close-up in this scene, and one of very few in the entire film. The use of this striking shot and lighting serves to emphasize the power of the priest, and create a sense of fear. Additionally, the light in this shot on its own underscores the ominous atmosphere.


The next shot is a long shot, from slightly above, where the viewer can see the inside of the temple and the backs of the huddled worshippers. The camera is not centered on the sacrificial apparatus, and the viewer has the sense of being in the room itself, peeking in from the back, similarly to the protagonists, yet not quite among them. The camera is never immersed in the crowd, and the viewer never feels as though they are part of the masses, but witnessing from close by.


The use of long and extra long shots in this scene is imperative in creating a sense of the scale. This scene in the Temple of Moloch is impressive because of hulking statues and the crowds. The long shots allow the viewers to witness the scope of what is happening. This scene demonstrates the skill and artistry that went into the set and artistic design for this film.



Though there were many other visually powerful scenes in the film, the Temple of Moloch stuck with me the most. It captured how the set design, visual effects, and narrative can work together in order to create a cohesive experience for the audience, where they are informed not only by what they see and hear, but also by what they feel, triggered by a combination of camera angles and artistic design.

Marry Tran on Cabiria (1915)

Full of over-exaggerated actions, intense music, and informative intertitles, the film fulfills its role as a historic epic in its retelling of Rome’s victory against Carthage, thus evoking nationalist feelings from its Italian audience in the context of a recently won war in Libya.

Cabiriawas Pastrone’s attempt to create a historical epic film that was much more than its counterparts in all aspects. It can be argued that this film was a multi-faceted fusion between tradition and innovation in regard to Italian cinema. The film was the most ambitious and costly of its time, and after Cabiria, the production company, Itala Film, didn’t produce another similar project of that scale. Despite this, the film is still seen as a success.

A poster for the film shows the interior of the Temple of Moloch. Credits: 1

However, with the inventive movements of the camera, the designs of the massive sets, detailed costumes, and the creativity in the special effects and risky stunts, Cabiriabecame a product of its own genre.

The movement of the camera is a technique that is noteworthy in Pastrone’s film, as it was done in a way that showed depth in the set and implied the existence of space beyond the frame. The viewer is mainly brought closer to the subject being observed, as opposed to an artificial close-up often found in monstrative attractions. Even in the opening sequence, the camera displays the greatness in the set of Batto’s home in Sicily, slowly focusing on him as he walks into a different section of the house to his wife. Additionally, the characters enter the frame from various angles, usually from the side or from directly afar, further providing depth to the set of the film while showing the decadence in the set design.

The Temple of Moloch is one of the best examples in displaying the size of the sets used in the film.

The superimposition of photograms provided many great special effects throughout the film, including that of the eruption of Mt. Etna, the burning of the Roman fleet, and the final shot of the film. Arguably the most notable was that of where the images from Sophonisba’s dreams were superimposed directly above the resting Carthaginian noblewoman, as Elissa (Cabiria) the slave was working beside her.


In addition to the layering of photograms, the stunts seen in the film were very impressive. From Fulvio jumping off a huge cliff to escape the Carthaginians to the creation of a pyramid of Roman soldiers supported by their strength and shields, Pastrone succeeded in making his film filled with spectacular attractions.

As a film, Cabiria was unmatched by its predecessors in length, narrative qualities, set design, costumes, and special effects. Italy’s historical context at the time as well as the development of Italian cinema, particularly that of Italo Film, inspired the creation and success of the film. As such, it walked the line between past and present, tradition and innovation when it was released in 1914 and continues to be seen as such by scholars. For modern tastes, the film may seem too outdated in its over dramatic acting and intertitles as it was created before the introduction of sound in cinema. However, it can be seen why Cabiriais still discussed and studied in European cinema today

Irene Signorelli on Cabiria (1915)

Giovanni Pastrone’s “Cabiria”, produced in 1914, was set to become a colossal from the beginning.

The profusion of money invested, the collaboration with Giovanni D’Annunzio, the use of innovative filming techniques and machines, the attention to every detail, destined the movie to reach a wider appreciation of the public.

However, a great part of its success, at least inside national borders, can be traced to the movie’s nationalistic message laying underneath it, that represented a unifying element crossing all Italian public, both from the north and the south, wealthy and bread-winners.

The movie is set during the Second Punic War, when the glory of the Roman Empire touched its peak by defeating the rival Carthage. The ultimate victory of Rome over the Punic city, that has historically led to the definitive Latin conquest of the region in the 3rdcentury, is metaphorically linked to the Italian acquisition of Libya in 1912. This connection between present Italians and their ancestors inflamed the public’s hearts with proudness of both their past and present.

As reported by a critic after having attended to the movie’s screening:

The commotion won over me over when I saw, shining on spectator’s faces and trough their eyes, Italian’s passionate love for how our marvellous past inspire lesson and new conquests.” (Reich; 2013, p.39)


However, if in Pastrone mind the reference was probably a mere tool for assuring a wide resonance to the movie through the audience, it is impossible to pass by the colonial logic embedded inside Cabiria.

Firstly, Rome’s glory and power seems to provide to the new-born Italian nation an ancestral right of conquest over the Mediterranean area. And second, in the movie is highly visible a clear distinction between Carthaginians and Romans, the first depicted as primitives, dedicated to human sacrifices, while Rome on the other side is represented as noble, civilized and magnanimous. (Aletto 2016). Let’s analyse the scene of the “human sacrifices”, when the High Priest of Carthage try to sacrifice the little Cabiria to the god Moloch.

The scene is introduced by a moment of high suspense where the hand of the God Moloch slowly open, highlighted by the skilful game of shadows.



The sapient use of lightening transpose the sense of perils and mystic fear, immediately followed by a long shot depicting the frenetic dances of the disciples caught by diabolic delirium (Reich,2013).    

D’Annunzio captions of the High Priest words invoking Moloch, underline the bloodthirsty and brutality of the

religion by using words like “voracious and “insatiable”, while the flames coming out by its gigantic statue convey the idea of pure evil.



This combination aims to create a feeling of disconcert and dismay inside the public, overwhelmed by the painful sight of innocent child eaten by the flames of the God statues. Probably, on Pastrone ‘s mind this sequence aimed to attract the public, to win their stupor or/and to underline by contrast the braveness of the two heroes who rescued Cabiria. However, this peculiar depiction of the characters, Carthaginians and Romans, reveal a clear colonial logic.


he barbarous ritual, indeed, came as an obvious justification for the conquest of Rome of such tedious population. The glory of Rome is linked to its civilization, while Cartage deserve to be defeated and conquered once seen its barbaric religion and society. As during the Third century the innately superiority of Rome made it conquer the known world, in the XX century Italians, direct descendants of Romans, have the duty to reconquer their ancestors land and to bring civilization where is needed.


As we can see, Cabiria underlines and supports two main strands on which Italian colonialism was based on: the direct link to Rome’s power and the duty to civilize African barbaric people, making of the film a not so little propagandistic tool.



Aletto G., Cabiria: Gabriele D’Annunzio e il kolossal all’italiana, 2016, retrived from:

Reich J., The Metamorphosis of Maciste in Italian Silent Cinema, 2013, Indiana University Press


Nemanja Milosevic on Cabiria (1915)

Cabiriais an Italian film from the beginning of the 20thcentury, the year 1914, to be precise. Here I will discuss the importance of the movie for the cinema of the time and what is its significance today. We can start deliberating on the importance and greatness of the movie by stating the fact that the production of the movie influenced greatly other projects of its production company, Itala, and that it brought a great success to the beforementioned company.

This more-than-two-hour long movie marked a milestone in the history of cinema by it’s usage of new technological features and at the same time conveying a complex story with a plot and fairly distinguished characters. One technological innovation that was very important for the future cinema is a tracking shot, made possible by placing the camera on a dolly and using it to follow characters as the move, zoom in, include the parts of the frame that are higher or lower, etc. There are other features that were original or innovative in Cabiria, one being the volcano eruption showed in the movie, the usage of internal and outside setting and lighting, portrayal of fire, battles that include a lot extras and some very elaborate set designs.

Besides all the technological advances I mentioned we cannot deny the complexity of the plot in Cabiria. The movie follows characters that have relationships (father-daughter, friends, fellow Romans, etc) and identities, they have goals and they have strategies to achieve this goal, etc. These are just few points in the plot that demonstrate this. Besides its temporal dimension (being historically marked), important thing to notice is also a spatial dimension, the movie takes place in different places and it successfully communicates this (using set design, costumes, intertitles). The project was without a doubt ambitious and represented an example to be followed.

Although I enjoy watching movies, this was a rare occasion for me to see a silent movie, and I will now reflect on the cinematic experience of watching Cabiria. Regardless of the existing plot and narrative tools used to convey a story, I found it pretty challenging to follow through the movie and grasp every detail. That made me think how sound in the movie and Hollywood/mainstream movie conventions made of us “lazy viewers”, making us put little to no effort while watching a movie. Mainstream modern cinema created the tools that help us watch a movie today without it being a great endeavor, the characters’ backstories are introduced clearly in the beginning of the movie, we are completely aware of the location, identities, relationships of the characters, their inner worlds and thoughts, etc.  While watching a silent movie, we have to pay closer attention to the facial expressions, body movements, posture of the protagonist in order to learn anything about their inner world, emotions or thoughts, and even then we may come to a wrong conclusion or understand something falsely.


We have to pay closer attention to the status symbols, if we have, for example, 5 female characters in the frame, we have to see how are they dressed to conclude who is a servant and who is the ruler, if we are witnessing a fight, we have to recognize different costumes of opposing armies and use our history knowledge to understand who are Romans and who Carthaginians for example, etc. In modern day cinema, individual identities are usually clearly marked in a dialogue and not left to our visual interpretation.

Besides the technical part of the movie, we should also comment on the content of Cabiria, and what I found specifically interesting are characters and the relationships between them.

As I mentioned before, the character called Maciste plays an integral part in the success of the movie and that character continued on living even after Cabiria, he experienced many sequels afterwards and the actor starred as Maciste in all of them, just without black-face.         The character was presented as mulatto (without being strictly of white or black race) and the white actor was chosen for the role. The character was not completely black “signals an otherness that is not completely other, one who embodies both Romannes and Africanness, and thus a much more ambiguous figure” (Reich, The Metamorphosis of Maciste in Italian Silent Cinema, Film History, Vol 25, Issue 3: 38). This can be understood by putting the movie in the context of the Italian society of the time, on the one hand, Italy faced the conflict with a colonized territory, and on the other, the project of the national and identity-based unification of Italy was taking place. That means that the content or the narrative of a movie can be tied to a broader social and political context of a certain society or culture. Whether we talk about screwball comedies and their gender bending tendency or socialist cinema and the representation of the state-apparatus, we can always find a correlation of a certain time, political and social context and the narrative of a single movie.



One very important thing in this movie I want to put an emphasis on is the role of the little Cabiria in it. Besides the name of the movie, her agency in it is highly limited and she is just the object that drives the plot where men have dominant roles (she is not even present during a big portion of the movie and in some of the most important and memorable scenes). Fulvius Axilla and Maciste dominate the movie in their presence, their activities and popularity, and that the role of Cabiria is very passive.

Characters in Cabiria can be seen and understood as standard for the time, in terms of race and gender representation, national identity and masculinity. Technological advancements are not the only thing that gives us an insight into the context of a certain movie, but also the plot and content of it.

Maher Al Hariri on Cabiria (1915)

Cabiria: an Itala Film Company production of 1914, directed by Giovanni Pastrone, that narrates the kidnapping, and liberation of Cabiria, a noble Roman girl in the third century BCE during the Punic Wars. The film was an altering highlight in early Italian cinema history, and beyond.

In that period, the historical film was the most profitable, and prestigious genre. Due to its pedagogical significance, cultural status, and spectacular value. This genre in fact gave Italian cinema commercial viability, and aesthetic legitimacy amongst bourgeois audiences. (Alovisio) Therefore it is not surprising that Cabiria was the most ambitious and expensive of historical epics. In fact, the film costed what would be equivalent today to the budget of ten films. (Reich)

Cabiria, a film produced with a spirit of Italian nationalism that was leaning on Roman victories, to justify and mobilize for colonialist aspirations, (Reich) was not without its own propaganda messages. Croessa was trying to convince Fulvius Axiella to help her save Cabiria from the hands of the priests who wanted to sacrifice her, she offered him a precious ring as a talisman of mercy, that would grant him the help of the gods, if he helped her, then the following intertitles said: “The Roman was tempted by this perilous undertaking.” The fact that the intertitles chose to emphasize Axiella’s “Romanness” in that context, and say that he was not tempted by the precious ring, and not even by the promise of the support of the gods, but rather by the fact that it was a Perilous/dangerous undertake, shows that he is trying to establish a kind of stereotype about Romans, and by analogy Italians, as being courageous and thirsty for adventure.

This picture shows the intertitles in discussion


In terms of acting, and especially when introducing a new setting, particularly if of significance, such as the gardens, or the temple, and so on, the actors pose a lot, as if they were to take a picture, their movement would be very slow and repetitive, where their acting appears to be suggestive and symbolic. Those shots appear as moving paintings, of some sorts. This probably comes from theater, and might appear unnatural, and even somewhat irritating even to a spectator today, but it should be due to the fact that contemporary acting has moved a long way from the type of acting we see in Cabiria, which makes one unaccustomed to, and inappreciative of it.


Here is an example of acting like a painting


It must be said that Cabiria’s settings, clothing, and objects were all very detailed, elaborate, and impressive. It is then not surprising that producing this film was very excessive economically and in even terms of the labour invested, to the point that it depressed the production company’s regular productions’ pace and standards. (Alvisio) According to Reich, Cabiria’s historical accuracy was praised. However, in terms of the motifs one sees on the settings, clothing, and decoration, one finds that they mostly come from a merge of Ancient Egyptian, and Babylonian arts, although the Carthage was Phoenician then. It is true that the Phoenicians did not leave as many artifacts as Ancient Egyptians, so there exists a gap, however it is not smart to get obvious Ancient Egyptian symbols and show them as Phoenician, as it disrespects the spectator’s intelligence.

This picture shows The Scarab (Ancient Egyptian motif) used in the film. Credits:

Luigie Lursh G. Almojano on Cabiria (1915)

The film Cabiria relates to this notion of identity and racial representation which can be seen on the peculiarity on the way the film has presented its characterization. More particularly, I find it interesting how the film represented the characters of the slaves. I observed that it is a problematic attempt most specially when it touches sensitive discourse on identity and racial representation. It could be a mirror of how the film, through its story telling and artistic depiction of the existing reality, introduces critical issues on how characterization of the slaves in Cabiria is translating to a larger discourse on misrepresented identities. I felt a little uncomfortable in the way Maciste and his identity as a slave was built on an interesting and critical demonstration of biopolitics and racial typology at that time. His character represented as a slave, a political representation, is coupled with his skin color, translating as representation based on race and skin color. However, this initial depiction contradicted his overall impact as an interesting character due to his overall strength as elaborated by the spectacle of his muscular body built. This overturn is fueled by an important trend of nationalism and identity building thus resulting to a need to reformulate Maciste overall characterization -his “blackness” as an artistic display. As described by Reich, “Maciste takes pains to reinforce his whiteness through a complete collapse of the character-actor dichotomy and by constituting Maciste’s previous onscreen blackness in Cabiria as masquerade.” For somebody coming from the anthropological discipline, discourse on racial discrimination and biopolitics is part of the persisting stereotypes fueled by the colonialist past of anthropology.

The picture provides the characterization, influenced by racial typology and biopolitics, of the slaves in the film “Cabiria.”

The characterization of Maciste as a slave as depicted in one of the scenes in the movie.

Another Picture of Maciste: the establishment of Maciste as an icon of nationalism and heroism.

This scene in the film presented an interesting mixture of the varying typologies of the characters in the film presenting the slaves, the influential people, the Romans, and the Carthaginians.






















Overall, I felt that the discourse representing slaves in the case of the film Cabiria represents an interesting phenomenon of reformulation and rediscovery of its characterization. To put it simply, Reich said that “The racial discourses at work in that metamorphosis popularized current anthropological tenets of northern Italian and white superiority through the classic cinematic devices of heroic sacrifice, spectacular feats, and moral righteousness—all embodied in Maciste’s muscled, newly white physique.” More than the issue of this characterization as an issue of power over identities, I think it evokes a certain nationalistic consciousness thus requiring to stage Maciste’s blackness as an artistic display. Movies like Cabiria, doesn’t only provoke and enjoin the artistic eyes of the viewers but more importantly it made me, as a spectator, question some motives and themes it projects to overall social experience of film watching.


Photo Credits:

Auliannisa Hermawan on Cabiria (1915)

Cabiria (1914) augment the European cinema’s stylistic paradigm grounded on the uniqueness of the shot which cost a lot of cash in the editing. However, by using the exceptional solution of the tracking shot and by still remaining within the traditional borders of the single shot, the film turned out into something very ground breaking. Within this film, we can detect the safe experimental innovations founded in Itala’s previous films such as the panning shots of The Fall of Troy, the narrative symmetries of Come una sorellaand also the visionary special effects of Tigris (Alovisio & Bertellini, 2000).



This film has a large impact from its many cinematic innovations such as its highbrow literary aspirations, the historical accuracy of its decorative sets, the astonishing popularity of its unpredicted hero, and its innovative tracking shots. Pastrone can tell that he had to invest a lot for this film starting from the set and costume design to shooting and editing, used four cameras to shoot over twenty thousand meters of film, filmed on location in Rome, Sicily, and Tunisia. Not to mention its extravagant set design and innovative moving camera, Cabiria’s additional technical innovations are strategic use of artificial lighting, ornate costume design, and a complexity in plot which was formerly unseen in Italian cinema. Pastrone enticed a well-known Catalάn film director / cinematographer / special effects man named Segundo de Chomόn whom achieved an exceptional range of special effects and creative use of color in several scenes such as the eruption of Mount Etna, Sophonisba’s nightmare, Hannibal crossing the Alps, and the human sacrifice at the Temple of Moloch (Reich, 2013).



Sophonisba has a quiet interesting role as in keeping Cabiria safe until adulthood, well at least Cabiria survived even though as her slave. Sophonisba’s character is somehow opposite to Cabiria who is innocent and fragile. Sophonisba has more of an erotic sight, very seductive, threatening, aggressive and elegant female. She represents the female importance or seeing it from feminism approach is when she persuaded Massinissa to betray his Roman masters in which we can imply that a woman too can do such measures in influencing a man’s decision and can be a threat.



I think that the film is very thrilling and full of excitement at that moment because Giovanni Pastrone created something new and fresh for the public eyes. A more complex story with longer narrative, unique special effects and the possibility of moving camera also presenting a mount eruption, conflicting armies, mistaken identities, surveillance, passion, and human sacrifice at the temple of Moloch. It is also very adventurous with full of live action and many stunts man performing.

The film is interesting because it showed how the situation was at that time of period in which was set during the second Punic War. Views like the Alps, the dessert, the temples, the surroundings showed how it was like in the past. This is one of the contexts of a realist cinema, underwriting to a real effect in recreating the past. It had the camera penetrated diagonally into the action from a long shot to something a little closer. This has influence America in one way or another in making short films into having a longer story. It was during World War I period in which Hollywood was going to dominate the global filming industry and one of its greatest tutors was Cabiria.