Fabiola is a 1918 Italian silent historical film with English subtitles
The Palatino Film production is an adaptation of the 1854 novel Fabiola by Cardinal Nicholas Patrick Wiseman. The story is set in Rome in the early 4th century AD, during the time of the persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Diocletian.
The heroine of both book and film is Fabiola, a young beauty from a noble Roman family. She is spoiled by her father Fabius, who cannot deny her anything. Fabiola seems to have everything, including a superior education in the philosophers, yet under the surface, she is not content with her life.
One day, in a fit of rage, she attacks and wounds her slave girl Syra, who is secretly a Christian. The proud, spoiled Roman girl is humbled by Syra’s humility, maturity and devotion to her in this situation, and a slow transformation begins, which finally culminates in her conversion to Christianity, brought on by her own cousin Agnes, whom she adores and dotes on.
Another thread of the novel deals with the young boy Pancratius (in the film called Pancrazio), a pious Christian and son of a martyr, who is himself preparing for martyrdom. Pancratius’ nemesis is Corvinus, a bullying schoolmate who is irritated by the young Christian’s saintliness. He does everything to bring him and the Christian community of the catacombs of Rome down. This includes the orchestrating of the lynching of their former teacher Cassianus, who is secretly Christian. Yet Pancratius shows his enemy the meaning of Christian forgiveness when he saves his life shortly after Corvinus had Cassianus killed.
Another major villain in the book is the enigmatic Fulvius (in the film called Fulvio), an apparently rich young man from the East who soon reveals himself to be a hunter of Christians who turns them in to the authorities for money. His aim on the one hand is to gain the hand of either Fabiola or Agnes, and on the other hand, to uproot the Christian community in Rome.
After some dramatic events that reveal his surprising connections to Syra, who is his long-lost younger sister Myriam, Fulvius rejects his evil ways, converts to Christianity and becomes a hermit. The story also weaves a number of martyrdom accounts and legends of real-life Christian saints into the fictitious story. These include St. Agnes and St. Sebastian (Sebastiano in the film).
Director: Enrico Guazzoni
Cinematography: Alfredo Lenci
Adapted from: Fabiola
Writers: Fausto Salvatori (adaptation), Nicholas Patrick Wiseman (novel)
Stars: Giulia Cassini-Rizzotto, Bruto Castellani, Giorgio Fini