The procession in the 1963 Cleopatra film is one of the most expensive scenes in the most expensive movie of the time. At almost a million dollars, it’s easy to see where all that money went into. Even though it a relatively short moment in a long film the procession is one of the most famous scenes.
Creating the Scene Edit
=== The procession lasts about seven minutes and is shot from a few angles, particularly straight forward so the arch is always in view. The setting for the scene is the Forum, in front of all of Rome. The Forum was built inside of the Cinecittà studios. Hermes Pan choreographed the entire procession and the entire process took about 11 months. He was given free reign budget wise and wanted to create something spectacular and unforgettable. === The result of Pan’s work was a scene full of soldiers on horses, dancers, archers, magicians, and many colorful costumes. Starting with the calvary, each group of performers gets less than a minute to show off. There are several different groups of dancers, some that were meant to represent tribal dances. The splendor we see on screen is actually less than what Pan envisioned. Most of the animal scenes, save for horses, were cut out from the final product.
The final part of the procession is a group of 300 slaves pulling a giant black sphinx past the Arch, the constant in the whole scene. Sitting right in front of the Sphinx on a gold throne is Cleopatra and her son Caesarion. Both of them are clad in gold to mimic the godliness and excessive wealth that Egypt was known for. Elizabeth Taylor’s dress alone cost $6,500 and was made with actual gold thread.
One of the most important parts of the scene is the Arch of Constantine, which symbolizes Rome itself. As Cleopatra passes through the arch she is attempting to put the people in awe and shock, the entire goal for the giant procession. However, the arch being there is not accurate at all. In reality the arch was built about three centuries later. The procession itself is a historical inaccuracy as well since triumphs were reserved for large military victories.
The scene represents the difference between Egypt and Rome quite clearly. In an earlier scene we get a vision of Caesar’s triumph through the arch that is not nearly as extravagant. This scene is the most obvious representation of all the excess that is associated with Cleopatra and Egypt throughout the film. The reactions that we see are a part of this. The rich of Rome (save for Antony and Caesar, both enamored with the Egypt and its queen) seem outright offended at the display. However, the masses are so excited that theyrush past the guards just to get a closer look.Egypt represents Hollywood in this way. In this age of
film, extravagance was expected. This expectation is what led to Cleopatra and the filmmakers strive to create such a huge film. The procession is Cleopatra’s way of winning the people over with materials. This film itself is the studios attempt to enamor a casual viewer with its grandeur.