For all the amazing places I’ve visited vicariously through cinema, last week that was spent in actual, real Rome made me realise that I haven’t seen all that many films set in the Eternal City, in spite of its obvious cinematic qualities. I’ve seen Antonioni’s Roma, Città Aperta, and I’ve watched Matt Damon trying to figure out whether he wanted to be Jude Law or whether he simply wanted him in The Talented Mr Ripley – but other than that, cinematic Rome has passed me by. (Televisionary Rome, on the other hand…) Having recently walked past the house where Frederico Fellini and Giulietta Massina lived for the last years of their lives, I am resolved to check out La Dolce Vita and Roma, at least. Film Four, couldn’t you throw a Fellini retrospective our way?
However, I did spend a couple of weeks earlier this year exploring the place – albeit neither in films nor in the real world, but in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, a game that carries the DNA of both Dan Brown and Umberto Eco according to some critics (I’m afraid that Eco, other than The Name of the Rose and some essays, has passed me by so far – another omission I’m hoping to correct). It’s set in Renaissance Rome, and it’s a near perfect example of how video games, in terms of technology but accordingly also in terms of ambition of what can be depicted in games, have developed in the last couple of years. Obviously seeing the real Pantheon or Colosseum or Campidoglio isn’t the same as seeing them in the game – and indeed, when I fired up Brotherhood this morning to check out the locations with Rome fresh in my memory, I did find them all to look considerably smaller in comparison – but letting you explore places that feel alive and that are inaccessible to you otherwise is something that games are doing better and better.
What games cannot do, though, and won’t for a long, long time, is deliver that perfect Granita di Caffe con Panna. Time for Nintendo to make a deal with Nespresso, methinks!
P.S.: In Brotherhood, the Colosseum and the Pantheon are probably my favourites. In actual Rome, it’s the wonderful Caravaggios (can he lay eggs?), the restaurants and that perfect tagliolini cacio e pepe at Le mani in pasta in the Trastevere part of the city. Molto delicioso!