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Caligula (film)

1979 film by Tinto Brass
If only all Rome had just one neck.

Caligula is a 1979 Italian-American erotic historical drama film about the rise and fall of the infamous Roman Emperor Caligula.

Directed by Tinto Brass. Written by Tinto Brass, Malcolm McDowell, and Bob Guccione, based on an original screenplay by Gore Vidal.
What would you have done if you had been given absolute power of life and death over everybody else in the whole world?taglines

CaligulaEdit

 
I am all men as I am no man, and therefore I am a god.
  • With Tiberius, there's always something to fear.
  • At the insistence of the senate and the people of Rome, I accept humbly the highest office of our great republic.
  • From this moment, all official oaths will contain the following phrase; I will value neither my life nor the lives of my children any more highly than I do the emperor and of his sister Drusilla.
  • I am interested in all that is Rome, even down to the length of a toga.
  • I am Rome. Wherever I am, Rome is, and there is the senate and the people of Rome.
  • If only all Rome had just one neck!
  • You see how I have exhausted myself to make your wedding holy. My blessings to you both.
  • As if there ever could be an antidote against Caesar!
  • I have existed from the morning of the world and I shall exist until the last star falls from the night. Although I have taken the form of Gaius Caligula, I am all men as I am no man, and therefore I am a god.

EnniaEdit

  • Now you are a man, Caligula. What are you going to do? You must be the master of your own destiny. Take it with both hands.

TiberiusEdit

 
Fate chose me to govern swine. In my old age, I am become a swineherd.
  • I am nursing a viper in Rome's bosom.
  • When Rome was just a city, we were just citizens, known to one another, you see. We were frugal, good, disciplined and dignified. The Romans I rule are not what they were. They lust. They lust for power and pleasure, money, the wives of other men. Oh yes, I am a true moralist, and stern as any Cato. Fate chose me to govern swine. In my old age, I am become a swineherd.
  • Every senator believes himself to be a potential Caesar. Therefore every senator is guilty of treason, in thought if not in deed. The senate is the natural enemy of any Caesar, "Little Boots". They offer to prove any law I made before I made it. I said: 'What if I go mad? What then?' No answer. They were born to be slaves.

DialogueEdit

Caligula: Tell me, how is the emperor?
Nerva: Old, like me.
Caligula: I mean, how is his mood?
Nerva: Like the weather.
Caligula: The weather is good today!
Nerva: Changeable. I've heard that during the last month, seven of my colleagues in the senate have been put to death for treason.
Caligula: Nine, to be exact. Five of them cheated. They killed themselves. That wasn't playing fair. Don't you agree, Nerva?
Nerva: They were all good men.
Caligula: If they were good men, how could their beloved emperor find them guilty?
Nerva: You have a gift for logic, prince.

Tiberius: Help me, Nerva. Help me transform this young barbarian into a Roman Caesar.
Nerva: There have been three Roman Caesars; Julius, Augustus and yourself. Which do you want him to be?
Tiberius: The best.
Nerva: That would be your father Augustus.
Tiberius: You see, Caligula? I'm insulted to my face.

Tiberius: I'm old.
Caligula: Yes, lord. But you will live forever.
Tiberius: All my family are dead but you, the child Gemellus, and that Claudius, that uncle. They were struck down by fate, and it is fate, "Little Boots", that rules us, not any god.
Caligula: You are a god, lord.
Tiberius: No I'm not, not even when I am dead.
Caligula: Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar, they are gods.
Tiberius: So say the senate, and so the people prefer to believe. Such myths are useful.

 
Serve the state, Caligula, although the people in it are wicked beasts.
Tiberius: Serve the state, Caligula, although the people in it are wicked beasts.
Caligula: But they love you, lord.
Tiberius: No, they fear me, and that is much better. I have no choice, you see. No choice.
Caligula: No choice?
Tiberius: All I wanted was private life. I did not truly want to become emperor, but I had to.
Caligula: Had to?
Tiberius: If someone else had become emperor, I would have been killed, as you will be.

Tiberius: You must not go, you must not leave me. You're my friend, my only friend.
Nerva: I have lived too long, Tiberius, and I hate my life.

Nerva: For a man to choose the hour of his own death is the closest he will ever come to tricking fate, and fate decrees that when you die, Macro will kill me.
Tiberius: I'll arrest him and have him executed.
Nerva: You can't. He controls you. [Looks at Caligula] Anyway, even with Macro dead, how could I go on living with this reptile?
Tiberius: [To Caligula] You will respect my friend always, won't you, reptile?
Caligula: I've always respected him, lord.
Tiberius: [To Nerva] You hear?
Nerva: Tiberius, you were wise once.
Tiberius: Ah, don't taunt me. I am old.
Nerva: I've watched you grow into a monster! One by one, I've seen you murder your whole family, your friends, the noblest men in Rome.
Caligula: That is treason!
Nerva: No, it's the truth.
Tiberius: I am and I always have been surrounded by enemies. In my own family, in the senate... You are cruel!
Nerva: No, honest. Old men can sometimes see the future. So, from evils past, and the evils yet to come, I now choose to escape.

Caligula: Nerva, what's it like?
Nerva: Warm, no pain. Just drifting away.
Caligula: Do you see her?
Nerva: Who?
Caligula: The goddess, Isis.
Nerva: So you're one of those who believe.
Caligula: Do you see her?
Nerva: No.
Caligula: Are you sure? You're almost dead. What's it like? What's happening to you now?
Nerva: Nothing.
Caligula: You're lying. You can see her, I know you can. What is she like?
Nerva: No. Nothing at all. Just sleep.
Caligula: Liar!

Caligula: Did you see their faces when I told them they had to swear not only to me, but to you?
Drusilla: They were appalled.
Caligula: I do hope so!

Caligula: I'm going to marry you.
Drusilla: You can't. We're not Egyptians.
Caligula: I know. We are much more beautiful.
Drusilla: Rome is not Egypt, and stop looking at yourself like that.
Caligula: Let's go to Egypt then.
Drusilla: You are a fool.
Caligula: Caesar cannot be a fool.
Drusilla: But he's trying very hard.
Caligula: Caesar cannot be a fool!
Drusilla: "Little Boots", they'll throw you in the Tiber if you attempt to move the government. So, you're going to marry a respectable Roman lady of the senatorial class.
Caligula: No, I'm not.
Drusilla: Yes, you are! You've got to have an heir.
Caligula: Who will kill me when he grows up!

Caligula: That will be my wife.
Drusilla: Oh no! Not Caesonia.
Caligula: You're impossible!
Drusilla: She's the most promiscuous woman in Rome.
Caligula: Perfect!
Drusilla: Caesonia's been divorced. She's extravagant, always in debt.
Caligula: I want her.
Drusilla: But not for a wife.
Caligula: Send her to me now.
Drusilla: No, "Little Boots". I won't let you do it. It wouldn't be wise.
Caligula: Yet such is the will of the senate and the people of Rome.

Caligula: I've told Caesonia that I would marry her
Drusilla: Don't...
Caligula: But only after she has borne me a son.
Drusilla: How will you ever know its yours?
Caligula: Don't worry. I've got her very well guarded.
Drusilla: Then you can be sure one of the guards will be the father.
Caligula: No, they're all homosexuals who've been castrated.

 
I am a god, or at least I will be when I'm dead.
Caligula: I want your honest advice. Should I make myself king of Rome?
Claudius: King? Well... But this is a republic, isn't it?
Caligula: Very well, then. I shall make myself king of the republic.
Longinus: But you're already greater than any king, Caesar.
Caligula: I am a god, or at least I will be when I'm dead.

Caesonia: They hate you now.
Caligula: Let them hate me, so long as they fear me.
Caesonia: They are senators and consuls. They are important men.
Caligula: So important that they approve all I do? They must be mad. I don't know what else to do to provoke them.

Quotes about CaligulaEdit

  • Caligula is sickening, utterly worthless, shameful trash. If it is not the worst film I have ever seen, that makes it all the more shameful: People with talent allowed themselves to participate in this travesty.
  • I don't see the film as being pornographic, and I certainly didn't set out to make a pornographic movie. It's a question of definitions. To me, pornography is a work of bad art, as opposed to good art. And I don't think Caligula qualifies under the heading of bad art. It was a huge commercial undertaking, and at the same time we wanted to make a serious statement. We've done with cinematic images what so many authors and historians have done with words - we have re-created a complex life-style that flourished before Christ and the Judeo-Christian philosophy came into being.
    • Bob Guccione, as quoted in "Bob Guccione Caligula Interview from Penthouse May 1980". Penthouse: 112–118, 146–115.
  • The fact that we have used celebrated movie personalities to make a film with sexually explicit passages is probably the source of the controversy. People talk about the violence, of course, but it's easier and more sophisticated to say that you're shocked by the violence rather than the sex.
    • Bob Guccione, as quoted in "Bob Guccione Caligula Interview from Penthouse May 1980". Penthouse: 112–118, 146–115.
  • I promised that Caligula would fundamentally change the theatergoing public's perception of motion pictures. I said that it would foment changes within the industry itself. I really shot my mouth off, but I meant every word of it, and I still do.
    • Bob Guccione, as quoted in "Bob Guccione Caligula Interview from Penthouse May 1980". Penthouse: 112–118, 146–115.
  • I made Caligula for the masses, not for a few self-appointed elitists. Besides, every time I read a lousy review I wanted the pleasure of knowing it cost the author $7.50 to write it.
    • Bob Guccione, as quoted in "Bob Guccione Caligula Interview from Penthouse May 1980". Penthouse: 112–118, 146–115.
  • [We] had to remove a lot of the material that Gore had originally written into the script, so the film is now somewhat more sensual than the original version. In fact, just to give you one example, in the beginning - other than between Caligula and his sister, Drusilla - there were practically no heterosexual scenes at all. Every sex scene Vidal wrote was homosexual in content.
    • Bob Guccione, as quoted in "Bob Guccione Caligula Interview from Penthouse May 1980". Penthouse: 112–118, 146–115.
  • I never intended to involve myself, certainly not in the actual shooting, until I saw the way Brass had mishandled and brutalized the film's sexuality. No matter what instructions I gave him, no matter how many times we discussed a scene and agreed on its interpretation, Brass would go out of his way to do the opposite. When I was in Rome and present at the studio, he would work within the parameters we had originally agreed. The minute I left Rome or even turned my back, he would go thundering off on his own.
    • Bob Guccione, as quoted in "Bob Guccione Caligula Interview from Penthouse May 1980". Penthouse: 112–118, 146–115.
  • Let me tell you how ridiculous it got. When it came to casting certain senators and noblemen, [Brass] would deliberately recruit them from a pool of ex-convicts, thieves, and political anarchists that he happened to keep in touch with. That was his sense of humor.
    • Bob Guccione, as quoted in "Bob Guccione Caligula Interview from Penthouse May 1980". Penthouse: 112–118, 146–115.
  • People think of him [Caligula] as a revolutionary or a figure of fun or a madman. There are so many aspects to him that we know really little about him, just the information that was given to us through a historian, a Roman historian called Suetonius, and he was from the other side of the family, so Suetonius paints Caligula as a very wicked madman, and that's the only reason that Suetonius considers why he did so many, on the face of it, crazy things. My interpretation of the character is not quite like that.
    • Malcolm McDowell, as quoted in A Documentary on the Making of Gore Vidal's Caligula [documentary] (1981), Cinemedia West Corporation
  • The Roman Empire, like any other empire, was made up purely of bureaucrats, the army, the priests and everything else, and he systematically goes from one institution to the other, trying to provoke them and trying to get an action out of them, and this is why in our view the misconception is that Caligula was completely mad... Anyway, he tries to destroy the institutions. Of course, naturally, he never fails. I mean, he does fail, simply because it's impossible to destroy a burocracy, and I think that is a very relevant point for modern-day audiences.
    • Malcolm McDowell, as quoted in A Documentary on the Making of Gore Vidal's Caligula [documentary] (1981), Cinemedia West Corporation
  • I do recall one particular night shoot… We were called to the set at four o'clock in the afternoon. As usual, nothing was ready. They'd built a set of Tiberius's grotto, on three acres, and were assembling all of the extras and background. The producers worriedly asked if I would go into Peter's trailer (he was playing Tiberius) and go through the lines with him, which we did few times.
    And then he told me the most remarkable story – whether it is true or not I have no idea – about his grave-robbing Etruscan tombs. He said the best way to find Etruscan jewellery and artefacts was to find the drains in the tombs, and very gingerly sift through them with your fingers because, as the bodies decompose, all of the artifacts deposit themselves into the channels. The thought of Peter O'Toole on his hands and knees in an Etruscan catacomb makes for a lovely image.
    We spent hours and hours in this trailer. He was smoking … it certainly wasn't tobacco. By the time we got onto the set, 12 hours had passed. We couldn't believe our eyes: the set was covered with people engaging in every sexual perversion in the book. We were totally bemused.
    Peter would start off his speech, "Rome was but a city..." then pause, look around, and say to me: "Are they doing the Irish jig over there?" I'd look over and there would be two dwarves and an amputee dancing around some girls splayed out on a giant dildo. This went on quite a few times.
  • It has an irresistible mixture of art and genitals in it.
    • Helen Mirren, as quoted in A Documentary on the Making of Gore Vidal's Caligula [documentary] (1981), Cinemedia West Corporation
  • The film was like being on an acid trip. It has its good moments and it has its bad moments and is a fantastical journey. It went where angels fear to tread. In many scenes, you're going: "Oh my God, I can't believe we're going to actually shoot this!" It was sort of horrific, but it was also wonderful.
  • Guccione hijacked the film and sandbagged everybody.
  • Many of the terrible things that we are going to show in this movie are indeed from history, or indeed from the only two sources that we have; Suetonius and Tacitus, and they may be true or they may not be true. But whatever they are, they are representative of something that those who are interested in history have known for 2000 years and which, until now, have never been [...] divulged to the general public.
    • Gore Vidal, as quoted in A Documentary on the Making of Gore Vidal's Caligula [documentary] (1981), Cinemedia West Corporation
  • I've always been interested in the Roman Empire, since after all like so many of us I'm a child of the American Empire, and empires tend to be more like one another than different from one another. In a sense, we're looking in a mirror, and we're seeing not just an emperor 2000 years dead, but we see ourselves.
    • Gore Vidal, as quoted in A Documentary on the Making of Gore Vidal's Caligula [documentary] (1981), Cinemedia West Corporation
  • I think there is a Caligula in everybody, which after all was a pretty normal average young man, put in an abnormal and extraordinary situation, and I think that if I can communicate to an audience that in this monster there is something that is present in all of us, but for one reason or another, generally for lack of opportunity or some ethical sense stops us, therefore we are not in action Caligula. But I'm trying to go to something much deeper, which is in our dreams we are Caligula, and what, after all, is a film, what is celluloid but dreams made into a kind of shadow of reality?
    • Gore Vidal, as quoted in A Documentary on the Making of Gore Vidal's Caligula [documentary] (1981), Cinemedia West Corporation

TaglinesEdit

  • What would you have done if you had been given absolute power of life and death over everybody else in the whole world?
  • The most controversial film of the 20th century is now the most controversial film of the 21st century.

CastEdit

External linksEdit