Top positive review
144 people found this helpful
on 19 May 2007
This is the most wonderful television story of the ancient histories yet. Here are the reasons:
1) Unlike many prior feature films and TV series, this does not take Julius Caesar's power as given. Pharsalus, the battle which guaranteed his power, is not a footnote but a crucial historical moment which is given its proper dues here. So are many other details.
2) The deviousness and machinations which were so much a part of Republican-Imperial Rome are left intact. Although it cannot compare with "I Claudius", the series certainly does an excellent job getting close.
3) The sexual scenes and violence are not overdone. Anyone who is aware of the frescoes at Pompeii will know that sex and sexuality were important features of Roman culture. If it strikes you as a "soft porn extravaganza" (Philip Shepherd's comment) then remember that Rome was, at many times, a hard porn extravaganza. See the Penthouse film 'Caligula' and the novels of Mary Renault for other attempts at making us come out of our Victorian shell - long overdue in my opinion.
4) The acting is superb. Absolutely first class. See it for yourself.
5) Much research has clearly gone into the finer details. Notice that the ancient hairstyles are copied. The clothing also appears authentic (no off-the-rack yuppie ripoffs here). Ancient military, surgical, and cosmetic products have also been replicated well.
6) The film corrects many of our misconceptions. Though we may recall, with fondness, the fine nobility of Shakespeare's 'Antony and Cleopatra' this film provides a much-needed revision of these characters' identities. Antony is a thuggish brute and Cleopatra a coquettish nymphomaniac. There is nothing surprising here except the breathtaking audacity in making it plain. Wow!
7) The series does not fall into the trap of making the stories a purely upper-class affair. Much of it must be, if only because the ancient histories adopt the same approach. Yet a lot of the action takes place at the level of the common people. This too is quite revolutionary for a drama of this type.
8) Quite a few different scriptwriters and directors have been involved. They seem to change from episode to episode. The strength of this series clearly results from this inclusive, all-embracing approach.
If there are weaknesses, they lie in the slightly restrictive depiction of Rome as a city. At its height, Rome was a giant metropolis. This series makes it feel more like a provincial city than an imperial capital. That said, there's not much else to complain about and a huge amount to enjoy. High praise! Applause! Accolades! Bona Dea, please let the series continue right through the Julio-Claudian era - and beyond!