When and Where Does The First Omen Take Place?

‘The First Omen’ is a supernatural horror film directed by Arkasha Stevenson that delves into a world of Christian mythology and satanic rituals. The movie centers upon Margaret Daino, a young novice called to Rome to serve as a member of an orphanage run by the Church. Soon after arriving, she discovers an occult world of conspiratorial obsession brewing amongst the Church’s most devout while riots and protests burn the streets of the Eternal City. Serving as a prequel to the first feature film, ‘The Omen,’ within the eponymous franchise, the Stevenson directorial takes the viewers to a time and place familiar to the narrative roots of the series that brim with superstition. To seed the dread within the religious horror film, the setting becomes crucial in visualizing the occult-inspired nightmare and the fanaticism gripping the characters. SPOILERS AHEAD!

The First Omen Depicts the Streets of 1971 Rome

The prequel occurs in the early 1970s in Rome, Italy, an era of political turmoil. Set explicitly in 1971, ‘The First Omen’ depicts a city teeming with crowds of protesters and riots blazing across the streets. As Margaret is driven to the Vizzardeli Orphanage, her car is sometimes blasted by the ruckus created by rioters ambling down various narrow alleys. It is a time of divide and terrorism outside as the young woman is quickly sheltered within the walls of the Orphanage, where peace and order reign supreme. This intermixing of chaos, which has taken root in the hearts and minds of the general populace, is contrasted by the pure and severe atmosphere pervading the ranks of the Church.

It creates a dichotomy of cultures, which is explored in ‘The First Omen.’ However, the dissenting crowds raising the political temperature within Rome are based on a real-life event. The phrase “Years of Lead” describes a period of Italian history strife with troublesome turbulence from the late 1960s to the late 1980s. Political violence and a social battle between the far-left and far-right sections of the population led to immense disruption within the time period. Several different groups from both ends of the political spectrum were involved in numerous acts of terrorism, targeting everyone from police officers, judges, and union leaders to simple bystanders. The film equips this historic moment of social unrest as a source of annoyance for the Church authorities depicted within its storyline.

While capitalizing on the upheaval of this era, the narrative also dovetails its storyline with the events of ‘The Omen,’ the 1976 movie that it acts as a prequel to. In ‘The Omen,’ the film follows Robert Thorn, an ambassador stationed in Italy with his family— when disastrous events start befalling him and his wife. Since ‘The First Omen’ tackles the origins and birth of the Antichrist, the early 1970s Rome seen within the film unfolds a few years before the tale depicted in ‘The Omen.’ Both narratives blend the Italian city’s holy and religious undertones with a story that dives into satanical worship. As such, the broken and chaotic situation embroiling in the streets outside serves only to embolden the vicious conspiracies unraveling in ‘The First Omen.’

The Politics of 1970s Rome and Their Influence Over The Film

1971 in Rome offers the perfect backdrop for the Church’s sinister plot in ‘The First Omen.’ In the film, as secularism, ideas of freedom, and permissiveness spread among the people, the Church, which has always been a buttoned-down organization, finds itself losing its grip on the public. Father Brennan, an excommunicated priest digging into the roots of the occult conspiracy, tells Margaret that because people are no longer flocking to the Church in masses, a section of the dark cultists within the organization wishes to birth a terrifying figure who will bring people back to the hallowed altar. That terrifying figure is the Antichrist.

With all the upheaval and terror spreading across the city, Lawerence and his followers take calculated risks to regain some control and power over the people. As Brennan says to Margaret, those select groups of church members have held huge influence and strength for thousands of years. Their problem remains that all of it is now beginning to fall apart. So, to keep their grip on the throne and their feet firmly planted, they have to think of different ways to inspire belief among the crowds. From their perspective, the world is changing, the times are changing, and chaos is reigning supreme. Desperate, they turn to evil incarnate in the form of the Antichrist to salvage their faith.

Read more: The First Omen: What Does The Mark in Carlita’s Mouth Mean?