"Tale of the Martyrs"
QUO VADIS is an epic presentation of the conflict between the paganism of Nero’s Rome and early Christianity, in a story involving a Roman general who falls in love with a Christian woman. This profound story of Christian martyrs is one of the all-time great epics, but it does contain carefully presented images of Christians being killed for sport in Nero’s Coliseum and thus needs a slight caution for young children.
QUO VADIS was made in the days when major studios like MGM were willing to invest absolute fortunes in unabashed Christian epics. It was like spending an AVATAR budget on a movie with the message of COURAGEOUS.
It’s the story of the Christian martyrs in Rome contrasting gross pagan excess with Christian love and compassion. It deserves a Plus Four Acceptability for its profound Christian message but slight caution should be applied to young children because even tastefully done images of martyrdom can cause young children anxiety.
Just imagine a major studio today opening a movie with this voice over:
“This is the Apian Way, the most famous road that leads to Rome, as all roads lead to Rome. On this road, marched your conquering legions. Imperial Rome is the center of the empire the undisputed master of the world, but with this power inevitably comes corruption. No man is sure of his life. The individual is at the mercy of the state and murder replaces justice. Rulers of conquered nations surrender their helpless subjects to bondage. High and low alike become Roman slaves, Roman hostages. There is no escape from the whip and the sword. That any force on earth can shake the foundations of this pyramid of power and corruption, of human misery and slavery seems inconceivable, but thirty years before this day, a miracle occurred. On a Roman cross in Judea, a man died to make men free. . . to spread the gospel of love and redemption. Soon that humble cross is to replace the proud eagles that now top the victorious Roman standards. This is the story of that immortal conflict.”
On that road, General Marcus Viniculus (Robert Taylor) returns to Rome after conquests in Britain. Emperor Nero (Peter Ustinov) has him camp his troops outside the city and wait for a spectacular entry to provide the proper conquering hero victory procession for the entertainment of the Roman citizens.
Marcus is instructed to wait in the home of retired General Plautius, whose whole household is Christian, including Lygia (Deborah Kerr), a hostage the general adopted as his own daughter. Marcus mistakes Lygia as a slave. His bold advances show a very low regard for women. Marcus is frustrated and puzzled that Lygia is not thrilled by such an important general as himself showing interest in her. Her Christian values don’t fit his pagan concept of male/female relations.
Marcus’ victories are celebrated with a massive spectacle. Because all hostages are at the mercy of the Emperor’s wishes, Nero rewards Marcus with the gift he desired, Lygia.
Feminists who consider Christian’s attitudes about marriage to be a form of bondage should see this movie. The Romans treated women like sex objects for sale, while Christians considered women partners in having and raising a family. Nero had his wife and his mother murdered.
Peter Ustinov’s Nero is a truly disturbing character. Like Hitler he justified the senseless killing of thousands in pursuit of his own warped sense of greatness. His decision to burn Rome, so he could rebuild it as he wished, was horrific enough. He then blamed it on Christians and made a spectacle of feeding them to lions and burning them on crosses before a Coliseum full of spectators.
As Nero becomes more and more crazed, Marcus begins to see the purity of Lygia’s Christian faith and values. Also, the words of Paul and Peter ring out with moral and spiritual clarity. He decides to take a stand, but Nero sentences him and Lygia to death in the Coliseum. Only a miracle can save them.
QUO VADIS ends with Marcus in conversation:
Marcus: “Babylon, Egypt, Greece, Rome. . . what follows?”
Another Roman: “A more permanent world, with a more permanent faith, I hope.”
Marcus: “One is not possible without the other.”
As the characters leave the scene, a voice-over says, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”
QUO VADIS is one of the great cinema epics. It paved the way for later biblical movies like THE ROBE, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, and BEN-HUR, which built on its success.
The movie was released just six years after Hitler died in his Berlin bunker. The message of the movie is that Christianity is the ultimate cure for tyranny. Christianity is the foundation on which freedom rests. Freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and freedom of worship can’t be sustained in cultures that don’t respect the right of individuals to accept or deny faith in God.
QUO VADIS was made at a time when the United States was the world’s beacon of civilization. Europe lay in ruins and only Americans had the intimidating atomic bomb, but, rather than behave like conquerors, Americans were busy helping rebuild even the enemies they had vanquished. QUO VADIS explains why. It’s a must-see movie.
(CCC, BBB, Pa, ACACAC, V, S, N, A, M) The movie has a profoundly Christian/biblical worldview with lots of pagan activity displayed in a sweeping conflict between the two worldviews, plus an excellent expose of tyranny and totalitarian dictatorship; no foul language; a tastefully restrained showing of the violence in the Roman Coliseum, including Christians being eaten by lions and burned at the stake, a brief image of the Apostle Peter hung up side down on a cross, several fight scenes and a scene of the burning of Rome with panic stricken citizens attempting to escape the flames and destruction, a stabbing, suicide talk; a Roman general is invited to have sex with someone else’s wife, but nothing shown; upper male nudity; Roman parties with ample alcohol use, occasional drinking; no smoking or drugs; and, corruption, brutality, tyranny. and slavery.
QUO VADIS is an AVATAR budgeted movie with a COURAGEOUS style Christian story. MGM’s 1951 epic contrasts the gross pagan excesses of Nero’s Rome with Christian love and compassion. Set in 64 AD, it’s the story of General Marcus Viniculus. Marcus returns to Rome in triumph but falls in love with Lygia, a Christian girl. This brings him into conflict with the increasingly unstable ruler. On a whim, Nero burns Rome, blames it on Christians, and calls for their execution as a sporting event. He sentences Marcus and Lygia to death in the Coliseum. Only a miracle can save them.
QUO VADIS is one of the great cinema epics. It paved the way for later biblical epics like THE ROBE, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, and BEN-HUR. Released six years after Hitler died in his bunker, the movie shows that Christianity is the ultimate cure for tyranny. Liberty can’t be sustained in cultures that don’t respect the right of individuals to accept or deny faith in God. After World War II, rather than behave like conquerors, America helped rebuild even the enemies it vanquished. QUO VADIS shows why. It’s a must-see movie.