Cabiria was the most successful of the early Italian 'sword and sandal' epics and was allegedly an influence on Griffiths when he made Intolerance.
The original release was severely edited for subsequent reissues. This looks to be based on one of these edited prints but with additional material from other sources to recreate something very close to the original version. The core print is in amazingly good condition for a movie as old as this, but the additional material is of varying quality. However, the whole effect is so good that print quality is no obstacle to evaluating the movie.
Like many other early movies, the intertitles tell the story and the visuals are merely illustrations. Here the titles (by Gabriele D'Annunzio) are extremely wordy and this is a film you read rather than view. The titles often contain large chunks of ancient history which may have been familiar to pre-War Italian audiences but was completely indigestible by me.
The visuals are often spectacular and the camera is more mobile than in most movies of the time, but the staging is so haphazard that I often had very little idea what was supposed to be happening. It didn't help that characters and plot elements are briefly introduced and then forgotten for fifteen or twenty minutes, only to be picked up again with minimal preparation. The actual story may have been quite clear in the head of the film-maker (Giovanni Pastone) but I don't think he really knew how to get it onto the screen.
I confess to finding this stately succession of often indecipherable images quite tedious and I had to take the movie in small bites to get through it at all. This did not help me with the historical continuity.
Cabiria is an important film in the early evolution of cinema and I am glad that it still exists in such good condition. I do not regret adding it to my collection, but I suspect this is one for film scholars rather then film fans.
I loved this; the massive pomp and spectacle,the enormous sets that inspired D W Griffith to make Intolerance,the sheer scope of it all.It starts with Mount Etna erupting, moves to Carthage via a bunch of pirates and even has Hannibal and his elephants crossing the Alps! Apparently it was shot in North Africa,Sicily and the Italian Alps,and some of the scenes are amazingly beautiful. It's true that the titles are incredibly wordy,but they are often very poetic,and the whole thing is so far ahead of its time.The restoration is brilliant;full marks to the people who sorted out the old print, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. So glad I got to see a major milestone in cinematic history.