JOHN GROCH said:
>(Incidently, I would take friendly issue with whomever suggested "Last
>Temptation of Christ," simply because that film not only cost very
>little but *looked* as if it cost very little, which runs counter to my
>intuitive sense of what an epic is.
In my book, AMERICAN RELIGIOUS AND BIBLICAL SPECTACULARS (1992), I agreed
with Prof. Groch about "Last Temptation," discussing it in my chapter "After
The spectacular/epic has three versions--the mythically displaced epic
like the Die Niebelungen/Kreimheld's Revenge type, the historical epic, such
as Cleopatra, War and Peace, and a host of others, and the natural
environment epic (such as Lean's work where the protagonist is pitted
against nature. The biblical and religious spectaculars are variations on
the historical epic/spectacular.
The key feature is what Matthew Arnold called "The Grand Style" in which
the action is both on a personal and cosmic scale. Humans struggle in an
arena far larger than their psyches and are tested. This brings about the
second characteristic, the melodramatic archetype, where some force--often
providence-is working through the trials and tribulations of the
hero/heroine to bring about the desired result (Ben-Hur, Cleopatra, Reds).
The hero, of course, is usually the same class as the intended audience, or
at least given materials that suggest his empathy with the working class.
The final key is that it is action, not psychology, being swept along in
I agree about Reds, and I think that most of the epics are now
miniseries on TV, where the scale is not the size of the screen, but the
length of the picture.
City Colleges of Chicago