Tuesday, February 11, 2020

2020 Movies #2: Boadicea

Boadicea. UK; dir. Sinclair Hill; scr. Anthony Asquith and Sinclair Hill; starring Phyllis Neilson-Terry, Lillian Hall-Davis and Clifford McLaglen; British Instructional Films; 1927

This is, at the moment, the earliest screen depiction of Roman Britain of which I am aware. It very much presents itself as 'authentic' - an opening caption proclaims that '[M]any incidents in this story were reconstructed in the neighbourhood where they actually occurred.' But this is misleading. Many incidents presented in this short movie have been invented for dramatic purposes, and sometimes flatly contradict the sources - so, for instance, Colchester is depicted with walls and gates, which Tacitus explicitly says it did not have.

It's still interesting (though clearly done on a shoestring budget). Phyllis Neilson-Terry, niece of the famous Ellen Terry, plays a more matronly Boadicea than some later portrayals. As is often the case with Boadicea/Boudicca narratives, the Druids are closely associated with the Queen. And clearly the viewer is meant to sympathise with the defeated Queen of the Iceni, even at the time when the identification of the British empire with the Roman was a major cultural theme. But because this is an 'educational' movie, the rapes of Boadicea's daughters are very much underplayed, to the point where no rape actually takes place - instead a daughter is roughly manhandled, causing Boadicea to strike the Roman. The Queen's flogging then follows.

No comments: