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The Archaeological Area in films

The archaeological area of the centre of Rome is like a ready-made film set.

 The Colosseum, a true symbol of Rome, provides the backdrop for “Un americano a Roma” (An American in Rome) (1954) by Steno – a classic example of the commedia all’italiana genre. While a sense of fun prevails in Steno’s film, this cannot be said for Bernardo Bertolucci’s “Il conformista” (The Conformist) (1970), in which, again, the Colosseum ‘plays’ a leading role. The Conformist ends dramatically inside this amphitheatre, when the main character implicates an innocent person as guilty of a murder which he, himself, has committed.

The Colosseum is associated in people’s minds with the unforgettable character played by Alberto Sordi, Nando Mericoni, who climbs to the top of the Colosseum and threatens to throw himself off if his dream – a trip to Kansas City – fails to come true.

Piazza del Campidoglio is a magical location. The Russian film director, Andreij Tarkovskij, shot a truly powerful scene there for his film, “Nostalghia” (1983): a friend of the main character – bearing witness to the irremediable loss of simplicity caused by modern life – commits suicide.

In Piazza del Campidoglio, we find the Palazzo dei Conservatori, in the courtyard of which we find very large sculptural works dating back to the times of Ancient Rome. The director, Jane Campion chose this location for a scene in her “The Portrait of a Lady” (1996). Marble statues provide the disturbing backdrop for the scene in which the main character, Nicole Kidman, realises that she is being cruelly mistreated.

The Vittoriano (the vast monumental work dominating Piazza Venezia) ‘stars’ in the Peter Greenaway film, “The Belly of an Architect” (1987), an oneiric film in which the world of dreams and of lucid folly blend, intensifying the scenographic power of this monument. The monument also appears in a film which was shot in 2003, “The Core”, by Jon Amiel. In this catastrophe genre film, the vast Vittoriano monument is blown up, and the Colosseum collapses when the rotation of the nucleus of the Earth suddenly ceases.

In the film, Palombella rossa” (Red Wood Pigeon) (1989) by the Roman film director, Nanni Moretti, the last scene is set in the Circo Massimo. The sequence is symbolic (a rarity in Moretti’s work). A red paper-pulp sun rises above the Circo Massimo, over the Aventine Hill.

A journalist, Gregory Peck, and a Princess, Audrey Hepburn, are the main characters of the film, “Roman Holiday” by William Wyler. But Rome itself, as seen from a Vespa scooter, also ‘plays’ a leading part. The film publicised the charms and fascination of Rome worldwide (while also advertising the scooter as a means of transport). The first meeting of the two main characters, amid many misapprehensions, takes place close to the Arch of Septimius Severus, with the Roman Forum serving as a backdrop. We then have a brief visit to the Colosseum. However, the most famous scene takes place under the arcade of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, with its Mouth of the Truth. Peck tells Hepburn the story of the mouth. Should you tell a lie with your hand in the mouth, the mouth will bite your hand off. He then thrusts his hand into the mouth and cries out in agony. Shock and surprise dissolves into laughter. An Ancient Roman manhole cover has thus become one of the city’s truly unforgettable icons. Attracted by the thrill of fear which this story holds for tourists even today, many visitors are drawn to this location.

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