Georges Méliès’ Temptation of St. Anthony (1898)

Georges Méliès' short retelling of the temptation of Saint Anthony (La tentation de Saint-Antoine), with the temptations taking the form of the unexpected and persistent appearance of various scantily clad women. Although not as technically epic as his earlier masterpieces it nonetheless marks an advance in terms of subject matter, being one of the earliest films to tackle an explicitly religious theme. In this respect, as Film Journal comments, "Méliès proves himself the ancestor of Cecil B. DeMille and Franco Zeffirelli, whose own religious epics offer a similar blend of the solemn and the kitschy".

The supernatural temptations reportedly faced by Saint Anthony during his sojourn in the Egyptian desert, have been an often-repeated subject in the history of art and literature. Colin Dickey's excellent article for The Public Domain Review explores how Gustave Flaubert spent nearly thirty years working on a surreal and largely ‘unreadable’ retelling of the story and how it was only in the dark and compelling illustrations of Odilon Redon, made years later, that Flaubert’s strangest work finally came to life. Read it here: