Quo Vadis movie review (1951)

Quo Vadis ("where are you going" in Latin) is a 1951 historical epic about the reign of emperor Nero and the conflict between Christianity and the Roman Empire.

The movie takes place in 64-68 A.D. and is a mixture of true historical characters and events and fictional ones. Throughout the movie we get to see emperor Nero, his extravagant lifestyle, how he sang and played his musical instrument, how he persecuted Christians (true historical fact) and how he burned the city of Rome (not a verified historical fact but a rumor at the time) and later blamed the Christians. Peter Ustinov does a great job at playing the Nero character. In the movie, we also see apostle Peter (played by Finlay Currie).

quo vadis nero
Nero singing in his palace
in the movie Quo Vadis (1951)

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Quo Vadis is the story of a Roman military commander called Marcus Vinicius (a fictional character played by Robert Taylor) who returns from war and falls in love with a Christian woman called Lygia (played by Deborah Kerr). Lygia is the adopted daughter of a retired Roman general and technically a hostage of Rome. Marcus manages to convince Nero to give him Lygia. Even though she hates the idea at the beginning, she eventually falls in love with Marcus. After the Great Fire of Rome, Nero goes after all the Christians and Marcus Vinicius tries to save Lygia and her family. He, Lygia and her family are then captured and imprisoned and condemned to be killed in the arena. In the prison, apostle Peter marries them.

The Quo Vadis movie was a big production at the time

In the arena, Lygia is tied to a wooden stake and her bodyguard must try to kill a wild bull otherwise she will be gored to death. Marcus is forced to watch this but Lygia's bodyguard manages to kill the bull. Marcus then frees Lygia with the help of his troops and a revolt breaks out against Nero who is suspected of starting the fire in Rome. Nero later commits suicide.

The movie was a big production at the time ($7.6 million). For example, 32,000 costumes were used! And even though it was produced in 1951, it was all in color. The images and the views of Rome and of Nero's palace throughout the movie are quite impressive.


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