Monday, 3 May 2010


The Agony of Byzance depicts the Sack of Constantinople in the 13th Century. Stood outside the city in full view of its terrified guards, Muslim soldiers prepare for battle. Emperor Constantine takes responsibility for his Christian subjects, arranging his own soldiers and comforting the rest of the citizens. Each opponent prays to their god for fortitude before the carnage begins, but while the Muslims seem strengthened with each prayer on the promise that their fallen soldiers will receive paradise, the Christian Byzantines feel they have been forsaken by God, and hold little hope for future battles. Emperor Constantine is only able to absolve his people before the city is inevitably taken over, an act which becomes more brutal than anyone could have imagined.

The Agony of Byzance, while ostensibly a war epic, places much of its attention on the religious aspect of the events. The power of prayer stands out as a central theme, and while it is a little unusual for a French film in the 1910s to appear to champion Islam over Christianity, the message of strong-mindedness is clear. Unlike many contemporary films, it is easy to forget that the entire film takes place on sound stages, or at least the enthusiastic battle sequences would have one believe. The scene in which the city is captured is particularly impressive, hundreds of extras trembling as they await their fate. The ending is slightly macabre, but the film is a reasonable delight if one watches it as a historical reenactment.

No comments:

Post a Comment