'Pompeii From the British Museum' to Show One Night Only

10:00 AM PST 09/20/2013 by Christopher Wyrick
British Museum
British Museum Great Court

The film, showing in select theaters on Sept. 25, comes from the British Museum about its landmark exhibition, "Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum."

Perhaps your European vacation plans for this summer did not come to fruition. Instead, you went out for tapas one night in Venice and got some gelato on the way home. Well now you have a chance to visit Italy by way of England in the comfort of your local movie theater. The British Museum has produced a film about their landmark exhibition Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum. The film, Pompeii from the British Museum, will be shown in select movie theaters nationwide for only one night: Wednesday, Sept. 25 at 7:30 p.m. local time.  

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It is a pretty wild ride through history, complete with some down-and-dirty details about the average lives of people about to be buried by a volcano. Looking at some of the exquisite objects in the exhibition, you would never imagine that they were buried under 15 to 20 feet of ash and pumice for over 1,600 years. The film features conversations with scholars walking through the museum exhibition, which is set up in the layout of a typical Roman house in Pompeii in the first century AD. Introduced by the British Museum’s director, Neil MacGregor, the film features insights from renowned experts including Paul Roberts, the curator of the exhibition; Mary Beard, professor of classics at Cambridge University; historian Bettany Hughes and interviewees such as Italian chef Giorgio Locatelli and gardening specialist Rachel de Thame.

According to the curator, Paul Roberts: "From the very beginning, I wanted to do an exhibition that was about the ordinary people of Pompeii and Herculaneum. It’s about the 99 percent -- not the one percent -- the famous, the wealthy. That’s why the exhibition was set up in the form of a home."

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And there isn’t much about the lives of these Roman citizens that's left out. There is a lively discussion about household dogs in Roman society. An amazing mosaic from the entry floor of a home in Pompeii is juxtaposed in the exhibition with one of the mummified dog casts that can also be seen when visiting the archeological site that is Pompeii. The museum experts point out in grim detail how you can see the way this dog was tethered, and hence unable to escape the blanket of volcanic ash that entombed the city in just 24 hours.

There are several examples of 70s (and not 1970s) erotica in the exhibition, which inspired film dialogue such as "… titillating and promising rather than pure raunch," and "there are a lot of erect male members in these places." Responding to some of the racier language and suggestive sculptures featured in the film, Roberts had this explanation: "The language was there. That imagery was there. The museum, from the beginning, took the correct attitude that the language be contextualized -- in the natural place in Roman times and in the household. We are asking people to think with their Roman heads on -- through their Roman eyes. It wasn’t a deliberate attempt to stir things up -- it is a direct translation of what is in the Latin that we have transcribed."

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When asked about what was most exciting about making this innovative film, Roberts enthusiastically replied: "Doing something new. The most important thing is that it is interesting and exciting for us -- because if it's not, then it will not be exciting to other people. It’s very enjoyable to know that you are spreading information in this new way -- the buzz from that is just wonderful. It’s marvelous to think of everyone in the States getting to enjoy this experience. It is a privilege for us to be able to share this with you."

Pompeii from the British Museum is the first film treatment of a major exhibition at the British Museum and the first international screening event of a film of this kind. The film will be presented in 460 movie theaters around the country. Tickets are available at participating theater box offices and online at www.FathomEvents.com. For a complete list of theater locations and prices, visit the NCM Fathom Events website.

The exhibition Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum will be on view at the British Museum through Sept. 29.

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