EFL Movie Study Guide for:
from www.krigline.com www.krigline.com.cn
Story: A Roman officer (Richard Burton) “wins” Jesus’ robe by
gambling under the cross. Soon, it seems that the robe is making him
crazy. A woman’s love can’t cure his inner pain, but his slave seems to
have found a solution. As the soldier sets out to destroy the robe, he
discovers the truth behind its strange power. This classic epic is
especially popular at Easter time.
(1953; 2 Oscars plus 3
nominations; Richard Burton, Michael Rennie, Victor Mature; 20th
Century Fox; drama; 135 minutes; 1st movie released in
Setting: First century Rome, Capri and Palestine [巴勒斯坦].
Note: In the first century, Rome ruled the western world. Many of
the people they conquered had been enslaved, and those fortunate enough to
live in Rome lived in great luxury (at the expense of those elsewhere).
The film says that, by this time, "there are more slaves in Rome than
citizens," so there was always fear that the slaves would join together
and revolt against their Roman masters. Furthermore, a Roman describes
Palestine like this: "It is the worst pest-hole in the Roman Empire; home
of a stiff-necked, riotous people, always on the verge of rebellion. For
an officer to be sent there is like a death sentence."
Marcellus is a Roman officer and son of a powerful Senator; Caligula is
the son of Tiberius Caesar. But first we meet Demetrius, who is being sold
as a slave. Caesar’s son wants to buy him to become a gladiator (one who
fights to the death for sport), but Marcellus bids more money for him (to
make Demetrius his personal assistant—but mainly to irritate Caligula),
which makes Caligula angry. Caligula then has Marcellus sent to the worst
place in the vast Roman Empire: Jerusalem, Israel. One of his duties is to
supervise crucifixions. While thus executing Jesus, he gambles for his
robe, and wins—and soon after starts to act crazy/insane. Diana intercedes
for Marcellus (whom she loves), and Tiberius sends for Marcellus, only to
find him insane or bewitched. After deciding that it was Jesus’ robe that
bewitched Marcellus, Tiberius sends Marcellus back to Israel with these
instructions: "Go, find the robe and destroy it, and for Rome, seek out
the followers of this dead magician. I want names of every man and woman
who subscribed to this treason." But once Marcellus gets to know some of
these “followers”, he begins to think that theirs is a force for good, not
evil or treason. Marcellus (and eventually Diana, too) becomes a
Christian, seeking to spread and defend his new faith.
Of course, the movie also features fights, death, love, honor, bravery,
confusion, rebellion, compassion, and all the other things that make a
story great, leading up to a memorable and surprising conclusion. The film
was so popular that it led to a sequel called Demetrius and the
crucifixion: to kill someone by nailing or tying his hands and feet to a
wooden cross as a cruel form of public punishment (common in Roman times)
dagger: a small knife, often hidden in your clothes or kept handy on your
execution: to kill someone with the authority of a ruler, government, gang
gladiators: slaves who were trained and then forced to fight to the death
to entertain an audience
looter: someone who steals things in a time of disaster or disorder (such
as right after a flood or during a war)
mad: in this film, mad means crazy (not angry); "During the journey
a guiding star became my one link with sanity; I'm mad."
merchant: a business man; someone who buys and sells things to make money
nails: [钉子] small pieces of
metal, hammered into wood (etc) to join things together (also see
sedition: words or actions intended to bring about rebellion against
sorcery/sorcerer: magic or one who uses magic (such as to "cast a spell"
or curse others); magicians, witches, sorcerers, etc. have almost always
been feared as evil people, whether the things they do bring bad results
or good results (such as healing people of sickness)
superstition: [迷信] irrational but
strong belief in magic, good/bad luck, omens, etc.
traitor/treason: someone who acts in a disloyal way, especially if
disloyal to his government or other leaders (which is called treason)
tribute: after a country was conquered, it sent tribute (gold or
precious things) to the new government every year to prove that they were
People and proper nouns:
Caligula: the son of Roman Emperor Tiberius Caesar; Caligula is known as a
violent leader and he was probably mentally ill (in this movie, we see him
both before and after his father died)
Capri: an island in the Mediterranean Sea that was a second home for
Tiberius Caesar (and Diana)
Centurion: a middle-level leader in the Roman army (under officers, but
over the enlisted soldiers)
Demetrius: Marcellus' slave; he was strong willed and ran away from his
master while they were in Palestine
Diana: she loves Marcellus and is a ward of Tiberius Caesar (a ward
is like an adopted daughter—a young person who is under someone else's
Jerusalem: [耶路撒冷] the ancient
capital of Israel; this is the place where Jesus was executed
Justus: an elderly weaver [织布家]
in Cana of Galilee (northern Palestine), who is a kind, community leader
Marcellus Gallio: the main character in this film; he is a Roman officer
(Tribune) and the son of an important senator (government official)
Messiah: In this movie, a Roman officer offers this description: "The
Jews' king, savior, redeemer, Son of their God…and general troublemaker";
to many Jews and Christians, the Messiah (or "Christ" in Greek) is one
sent from God to restore God's rule on earth by first saving people from
sin and then being their king
Miriam: a singer who has a very pleasant personality, even though she is
crippled (can't walk)
Palestine: a part of the middle-east; at the time shown in this film, and
for over a thousand years before that, this was the home of the Jewish
people (the Romans forced Jews out in AD 70, and Jews did not win the
right to return until the UN granted part of this land to Jews as a
homeland in 1947)
Passover: a major, annual Jewish festival that commemorates (celebrates)
the time when millions of Jews were released from slavery in Egypt (a
great movie about this is called The Ten Commandments)
Pontius Pilate: the Roman governor of Palestine, who lived in Jerusalem (1st
Simon Peter (the Big Fisherman): the disciple [门徒]
considered to be the first leader of Jesus' followers after he died
Tiberius Caesar: the elderly Roman Emperor at the time Jesus was killed (1st
Tribune: an elected and respected Roman official; sometimes Tribunes also
served as leaders in the Roman army
Sentences & dialog from the movie
1. Demetrius: "Why was he betrayed by one
he loved and trusted?"
Judas: "Because men are weak; because
they are cursed with envy and cowardice. Because they can dream of Truth
but cannot live with it. So they doubt. Why must men betray themselves
with doubts? Tell them they must keep faith!"
2. Miriam: "He asked us to build our lives
on love; to build a new world."
Marcellus: "Worlds are built on force.
Power is all that counts."
Miriam: "Perhaps we have something
better than power. We have hope."
3. Marcellus: "I lost my wits when I put
on the robe."
Doctor: "The clue to this man's sanity
is… in the robe that bewitched him."
Caesar: "Go, find the robe and destroy
it, and for Rome, seek out the followers of this dead magician. I want
names of every man and woman who subscribed to this treason."
4. Caesar: "…miracles, disciples, slaves
running away, Roman legionnaires fraternizing with the natives… [These are
big problems, but] the real danger is man's desire to be free."
5. Caesar: “When [the end of the empire]
comes, this is how it will start. Some obscure martyr in some forgotten
province, then madness. Infecting the legions, rocking the empire, then
the finish of Rome.”
6. Marcellus: "A man is not cheated when
he's satisfied with a price."
Justus: "But you weren't the real
loser. They were only cheating themselves."
7. Miriam's song (notice the use of old
English words like "spake" for spoke and "ye" for you): "…we
came unto the sepulcher [坟墓]
and found the stone rolled away… and a voice spake to us saying 'why seek
ye the living among the dead?'"
8. Marcellus (to Peter): I crucified him.
Peter: I know. Demetrius told me.
Marcellus (shocked): And you can
Peter: He forgave you from the cross.
Can I do less? Now, is there anything stopping you? Can you become one of
Marcellus: From this day forward, I am
enlisted in His service. I offer Him my fortune, my sword, and my life.
And this I pledge to you on my honor as a Roman.
9. Diana (to Caligula): I have no wish to
live another hour in an empire rule by you! You dare to call yourself a
Caesar. Once the Caesars of Rome were noble, but in you, noble blood has
turned to poison. You corrupt Rome with your spite and malice. That you
should be Caesar—vicious, treacherous, drunk with power, an evil, insane
monster posing as emperor… As for me, I have found another king [Jesus]. I
want to go with my husband into his kingdom.
Caligula: Then, by the
gods, you shall! Go, both of you, into your kingdom! (i.e., “I sentence
you both to die immediately.”)
1. From the way Marcellus’ family lived, how would you describe their
financial situation? If you had a lot of money, what would you do with it?
2. Look at dialog 8. In every century and in every culture, people betray
and disappoint other people. Why?
3. Look at dialog 16. What is more important for the progress of
civilization: love, power or hope? Power has built many of history's great
civilizations, but like Rome they never last. Why not?
4. Caligula calls a group: "A secret party of seditionists; the riffraff [痞子]
of the plebeian class
[人民]; a party of
conspirators [阴谋家]." Who is he
talking about, and do you agree with this description?
5. Look at dialog 14. What does it mean to "be cheated"? If a shopkeeper
gives you too much change when you buy something, do you keep it or tell
her about the error? In the movie (when the people accepted too much money
from a stupid merchant), who was being cheated (do you agree with Justus)?
Explain. What are some ways that people "cheat themselves"?
6. At the end, Diana made a difficult choice. Tell us about a difficult
choice you had to make, and tell us where you found the strength to make
Note (according to IMDB.com, 2012): The Roman Emperor Caligula is
depicted in this movie as persecuting Christians. However, he reigned from
AD 37 to 41, while Christianity was still a nascent religion with most of
its followers in the eastern Mediterranean. The first mention of
Christians from the perspective of the Roman government, according to the
Roman historian Suetonius, wasn't until the reign of his successor
Claudius (reigned AD 41-54). The first major incidents of persecution of
Christians did not occur until the reign of Emperor Nero (reigned AD
1. Diana: Then all the tales I've heard of you are true.
Marcellus: Every man makes enemies.
Diana: All your enemies seem to be women.
2. Diana: It's good to see you, Marcellus.
Marcellus: It's ah - good to see you - again.
Diana: Then you do remember me?
Marcellus: Ah - yes, of course. Let me see now, it was the - was
Diana: And your promise, have you forgotten that too?
Marcellus: What promise?
Diana: To marry me.
Marcellus: Was I drunk?
Diana: That's not very flattering, Marcellus.
Marcellus: Oh, I - I mean, if you'd tell me when I was supposed to
have said this - the circumstances...
Diana: Oh, I remember them perfectly. I'd cut my finger, and I
cried. And then you took the dagger and cut your own finger to show that
it didn't really hurt, and then you kissed me, and I stopped crying - and
then you promised to marry me when we grew up.
Marcellus: Dianna! Where have your freckles gone?
Diana: I lost them.
Marcellus: Oh, I loved every one of them.
Diana: Then I'm sorry I lost them.
3. Diana: Perhaps you don't believe that a girl of eleven could fall in
love, and stay in love all these years...
Marcellus: Don't cry, my love. Lucia thought I was in love, and I
laughed at her, but women are wise in these matters.
4. Demetrius: Make Pilate understand that if he stains his hands with
his blood, he's worse than a murderer.
5. Pontius Pilate: Give me water to wash my hands.
6. Jesus Christ [dying on the cross, under Marcellus’ supervision]:
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
7. Demetrius [awaking to darkness]: Is it night?
Jerusalem woman aiding Demetrius: No. It's the middle of the day.
This isn't like other days.
8. Demetrius: Why was he betrayed by one he loved and trusted?
Judas: Because men are weak; because they are cursed with envy and
cowardice. Because they can dream of Truth but cannot live with it. So
they doubt. Why must men betray themselves with doubts? Tell them they
must keep faith! They must keep faith! [walks away]
Demetrius: Wait, tell who? Who are you?
Judas: My name is Judas.
9. Demetrius: [to Marcellus] You crucified him. You, my master. Yet you
freed me. I'll never serve you again, you Roman pig. Masters of the world,
you call yourselves. Thieves! Murderers! Jungle animals! A curse on you! A
curse on your empire!
10. Marcellus [waking up from a nightmare of Jesus being nailed to the
cross]: No! No! Stop it! Stop it! [he runs out on deck] Stop it! Why don't
you stop it!
Ship's captain: Stop what, sir?
Marcellus: Were you… out there? [this is a repeated line, used as a
sign of his maddness]
11. Emperor Tiberius: Tell me, what was your impression of Pilate?
Marcellus: It's not my place to...
Emperor Tiberius: I'm asking you. Did you find him capable?
Marcellus: Yes sire, he's considered a good administrator.
Emperor Tiberius: Stern, as befits a Roman governor?
Marcellus: I'm sure of that, sire.
Emperor Tiberius: Just?
Marcellus: I - I can't say.
Emperor Tiberius: Why not? Surely you can give me some sort of an
answer? Tell me, tribune - what happened out there?
12. Emperor Tiberius: Tribune Gallio, you are a Roman officer. I command
you to gain control over yourself.
13. Marcellus: I lost my wits when I put on the robe.
Doctor: The clue to this man's sanity is… in the robe that bewitched
Caesar: Go, find the robe and destroy it, and for Rome, seek out the
followers of this dead magician. I want names of every man and woman who
subscribed to this treason.
14. Marcellus: A man is not cheated when he's satisfied with a price.
Justus: But you weren't the real loser. They were only cheating
15. Miriam's song (notice the use of old English words like "spake" for
spoke and "ye" for you): "…we
came unto the sepulcher [坟墓] and
found the stone rolled away… and
a voice spake to us saying 'why seek ye the living among the dead?'"
16. Miriam: He asked us to build our lives on love; to build a new world.
Marcellus: Worlds are built on force. Power is all that counts.
Miriam: Perhaps we have something better than power. We have hope.
17. Marcellus: Surely you don't believe he rose from the dead.
Justus: He lives more surely than we do.
Marcellus: He's DEAD! And no moonstruck girl can sing him to life
Justus: How do you know that he's dead?
Marcellus: The soldier told me. The soldier who saw the lance thrust
into his side. The soldier who was - out there!
Justus: What's wrong?
Marcellus: Were you out there?
18. Caesar: "…miracles, disciples, slaves running away, Roman
legionnaires fraternizing with the natives… [These are big problems, but]
the real danger is man's desire to be free."
19. Emperor Tiberius [counseling Diana to forget about Marcellus]: For
your sake I interfered, when my wife wanted to give you to Caligula. For
your sake I brought your tribune back from Palestine. For your sake, I now
free you from him.
Diana: Sire, I have no wish to be free.
Emperor Tiberius: Have you gone mad too?
Diana: He had everything then. He could have had me too. I wanted
him, but I wasn't sure that I loved him. Now I am sure.
Emperor Tiberius: I see it my duty to forbid you to see him again.
As a child you were wise, but now you reason like a woman - foolishly.
20. Emperor Tiberius: After forty years with Julia, my approaching death
holds few terrors for me.
21. Emperor Tiberius: When it comes, this is how it will start. Some
obscure martyr in some forgotten province, then madness. Infecting the
legions, rocking the empire, then the finish of Rome.
22. Demetrius [to Marcellus, after Marcellus finally finds the Robe
again]: You're afraid, but you really don't know the reason why. You think
it's his robe that made you ill. But it's your own conscience, your own
decent shame. Even when you crucified him you felt it.
23. Demetrius: Until now you only remembered what you did to a man. The
wrong, and your shame. But now - you remember the man.
24. Peter: Let me tell you of the burden I bear. Justus told the others I
was steadfast. He didn't know. The night Jesus needed me most, I denied
him... not once... but three times. I swore I never knew him. Now...
Marcellus: [stammering, pointing to himself] I... crucified him.
Peter: I know. Demetrius told me.
Marcellus: [shocked] And you can forgive me?
Peter: He forgave you from the cross. Can I do less? Now, is there
anything stopping you? Can you become one of us?
Marcellus: [new strength in his voice] From this day forward, I am
enlisted in His service. I offer Him my fortune, my sword, and my life.
And this I pledge to you on my honor as a Roman.
25. Caligula [telling the guards to stop torturing Demetrius; they want
him to reveal where Marcellus is hiding]: Enough for now. He's no use to
26. Diana [after meeting Marcellus after a long absense]: Are you still
Marcellus: No, I'm well. Really well, for the first time in my life.
27. Diana: No, Marcellus, they'll kill you!
Marcellus: You must have faith...
Diana: Faith in what? This new God of yours? How can he help you? He
couldn't help his own son, they crucified him!
28. Caligula: You put him to death? Then why are you risking your life
Marcellus: I owe Him more than my life.
29. Diana [Marcellus has just been sentenced to execution; Diana leaves
the podium to stand at his side]: Sire, Marcellus is my chosen husband. I
wish to go with him.
Caligula: Stand back! You're not on trial! There's no evidence
Diana: Then if it please you, sire, I'll provide evidence. I have no
wish to live another hour in an empire ruled by you! You dare to
call yourself a Caesar. Once the Caesars of Rome were noble, but in you,
noble blood has turned to poison. You corrupt Rome with your spite and
Caligula: Stop! Stop it!
Diana: That you should be Caesar--vicious, treacherous, drunk
with power, an evil, insane monster posing as emperor.
Caligula: STOP IT!
Diana: As for me, I have found another king. I want to go with my
husband into his kingdom.
Caligula: Then, by the gods, you shall! Go, both of you, into your
kingdom! [(i.e., “I sentence you both to die immediately;” then soldiers
take Diana and Marcellus away] They're going into a better kingdom!
They're going into a better kingdom! They're going to meet their king!
They're going to meet their king!