Neo-Mythologism: Apollo and the Muses on the Screen

January 2005
International Journal of the Classical Tradition;Winter2005, Vol. 11 Issue 3, p383
Academic Journal
In antiquity, the idea of myth was fluid enough to accommodate a wide variety of divergent, even contradictory, versions of the same story. This tradition continues in modern times: myths, whether ancient or later, preserve their Protean nature. Striking examples for this flexibility of mythical tales are the adaptations of ancient myths to the screen. Classical antiquity has always played a major part in the history of film (and television), but screenwriters and directors as a rule take great liberties with their source materials. In films based on Greek and Roman literature, especially epic and tragedy, and in films with invented or modern settings, figures familiar to us from classical sources recur with surprising variability. Vittorio Cottafavi, director of several films set in antiquity, coined the term "neo-mythologism" for this phenomenon. The present paper intends to demonstrate the validity of critical examinations of such neo-mythologism by examining one specific topic: the appearances of Apollo and the Muses on the screen. It is the first comprehensive survey of its subject and analyzes the most important films in which Apollo and the Muses play major parts. The paper demonstrates the wide variety of neo-mythological approaches which films on ancient subjects usually exhibit. They range from tragedy to epic, from musical, comedy, and romance to science fiction, from art-house films to commercial products. Although individual works differ considerably in their artistic qualities, they all present noteworthy examples of the continuing vitality of the classical past in today's culture.


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