A review by Brenda Daniels
Pompeii Live from the British Museum is the filmed version of an exhibition set in the British Museum. The exhibition is titled Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum and displays fascinating archaeological pieces unearthed from these two ancient Italian towns. The exhibition is “live” in the sense that a number of experts are interviewed at the museum where they explain the various exhibits.
Pompeii Live from the British Museum is not to be confused with the recently released Pompeii – a film currently on circuit in South African Ster Kinekor classic theatres.
So, just how thrilling could a film based on an exhibition be, you ask. Well, I think the subject of the exhibition is the draw card here. Pompeii is famous. In AD79 Mount Vesuvius erupted in spectacular fashion, engulfing this Roman-Italian town in 300 degree Celcius larva. The town was completely buried and partly uncovered only in modern times. Much of what was uncovered was recognisable and has therefore given twenty-first century citizens a glimpse into what life was like in that part of the Roman empire some 2000 years ago.
What the filmed exhibition does is breathe life into the archaeological items on display. So, real life – and people – in Roman times begin to emerge with the explanation of pieces of jewellery, cooking equipment, an intact loaf of bread, wall murals, street signs and rooms in houses and public houses.
Herculaneum, a nearby but less well-known town, was also devastated by the volcano. Items shown from this town include wooden furniture turned to charcoal by the unimaginable heat.
My own interest in Pompeii began years ago when I read a historical fiction account of the event. I was amazed at how advanced a culture the Roman’s was. And then, in 2012 I visited Pompeii itself and saw firsthand a Roman road, complete with wagon wheel ruts, a brothel, a Roman baths and of course human bodies “frozen” at the moment of death.
Pompeii Live from the British Museum makes a very important point. The archaeological sites at Pompeii and Herculaneum are in danger of not being preserved. The experts in the documentary all agree on one thing: preserve what we have before digging for more.
I hope this film creates an awareness that will go some way to helping preserve this amazing piece of history. Of life.
The documentary releases in HD at the four digital Cinema Nouveau theatres in South Africa – Rosebank Mall in Johannesburg, Brooklyn Mall in Pretoria, Gateway in Durban and V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. The exhibition will be screened for four shows only: 22, 26 and 27 March at 7.30pm and 23 March at 2.30pm. The film runs for one and a half hours.