Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Roaming "Rome"

The TV drama series “Rome” has been hailed as amazing.
Well, it certainly did the trick of amazing me!
You see, I had the pleasure of 6 years of Latin (2 hours a day) in school and was always curious how ancient Rome and its inhabitants would have looked like.
The HBO series enticed me with a great “behind the scenes” preview explaining about the sets and costumes.
In good BBC tradition, they showed how they made copies of artifacts and outfits, only applying materials and dyes that were in use two millennia ago.
hey also meticulously build copies of Roman streets, buildings, temples and the like.

I was impressed, and looking forwards to the first episode.
I mean, any channel that produced the critically acclaimed and massively enjoyed “Claudius” series would do a great job – so I thought.

The first episode started with a very graphic and unrealistic sex scene.
It seems that if you show an actress in full frontal nudity in a historical drama, the scene will not be censored.
Probably to emphasize the historical context, slaves were waving big feather fans to cool the coupling couple.
The actress might have been completely nude, but her partner was wearing some leather straps across his torso. Not sure if this had a Symbolic Meaning, or the not-so-bright character wore them for protection.
After the lady had her merry way with him, she hopped into a bath the size of a small swimming pool under the eyes of her young son, who she happily invited to watch her while she rose from the foams. Not sure what the meaning of that was – may be showing her son that the plastic surgeon (or whatever they had in those times – no idea, my Latin textbooks mainly dealt with wars) did a great boob job?

The scene suddenly switched to the battlefields in Gaul.
Oy, that brought back hours of “De Bello Gallico”!
A Roman soldier was heavily whipped and seemed to enjoy it.
Ah well, to each his own, I assume…

Scene in the Roman Senate – Cato shouted at Cicero who shouted at Pompey who shouted at everyone else.
Didn’t make a lot of sense – maybe Caligula was not that crazy when he made his favorite horse a senator.

Back to the Lustful Lady who sent her young son on a horse to Gaul.
The horse was a gift for Caesar.
Obviously the wench wanted to butter him up for something or other.
She looked definitely Alexis Carrington-like when she sent the boy off.

More scenes with blood, torture and all that.
I lost the jest of the story at that point, so I cannot relate much of the storyline from here on - also because I was too distracted by the actors.
You see, the costumes and the set are gorgeous, no doubt about it.
As far as I remember, especially the outfits of the soldiers are accurate to the smallest details.
But the cast…. brrrrr.

I understand that it’s hard to find native Latin-speaking actors and let’s face it, Americans also refuse to read subtitles.
But what makes them think that an upperclass/public school English accent will do the trick?
But even more pathetic are the looks of the actors.
Not only do they look Anglo-Saxon, most of them have distinctive Celtic looks.
Don’t get me wrong; Kevin McKidd is goodlooking and a fine actor, but no Lucius Voranus.
The actor that plays Cato not only has a typical British army officer face, but the slightly crooked underbite teeth that go with it.

Young Octavian, with his angelic blond curls, blue eyes and lily-white complexion, should shine in a Harry Potter movie.
None of the ladies have the strong classical features, dark hair and eyes, and the olive complexion that sat so well on the Roman matrons of old.
Both Atia and Servilia are Irish-looking with ivory skin, red hair and blue eyes – they would do better in a Jane Austin movie than roaming the mean streets of ancient Rome.
The horses looked OK though…

I have to admit that I only saw 30 minutes of the first episode – I fell asleep when the Romans started crucifying Gauls. (Something to do with the Eagle Standard and money changing hands – made me think of the Presidential elections).

If Rome is your cup of wine (they hadn’t tea or coffee yet, which might explain the excessive violence), fine by me.
Personally, I prefer Roman Holiday to Rome….

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