Working on this brought to mind a million different thoughts and connections. I’ll be pulling the chaos together into something relatively linear soon.
Salomé (1923), a silent film directed by Charles Bryant and starring Alla Nazimova, is a film adaptation of the Oscar Wilde play of the same name. The play itself is a loose retelling of the biblical story of King Herod and his execution of John the Baptist (here, as in Wilde’s play, called Jokaanan) at the request of his stepdaughter, Salomé, whom he lusts after. Salomé is often called one of the first art films to be made in the U.S. The highly stylized costumes, exaggerated acting (even for the period), minimal sets, and absence of all but the most necessary props make for a screen image much more focused on atmosphere and on conveying a sense of the characters’ individual heightened desires than on conventional plot development.
I think the mythical Salome is both a product of and a window into the minds of those who told it. There’s a flavour to the tale that feels more like one from the old testament than the new.