Meandering, aimless but not entirely without interest
Franco Rossi's 1985 six-hour Italian mini-series of Quo Vadis is a very curious beast, creating an absolutely convincing ancient Roman world shot in matter of fact fashion (very few long shots, no big cityscapes), but playing the drama down so much in favour of allusions to classical literature and history that the story constantly gets lost in the background.
The shifting structure (much of episode one is played out via voice over letters) and lack of narrative urgency makes the full six-hour version simultaneously demanding and undemanding, and certainly far too often uninvolving, but it has something going for it. The two main strengths are the characterisation of Petronius (a thankfully dubbed Frederic Forrest, whose own voice would almost certainly flatten his dialogue) as a man whose spent so long looking for an astute angle to survive court life that he's become incapable of experiencing emotion, and Klaus Maria Brandauer's unique take on Nero as a wannabe actor whose every move and action is calculated on how his 'audience' will receive it. Elsewhere, Max Von Sydow briefly appears in a few episodes, being rewarded with the show's most impressive and genuinely moving scene here he encounters a child as he attempts to leave Rome. It's the kind of thing the show could do with more of, but it seems all too often to flatten every potentially emotional, inspiring or exciting moment under it's relentlessly low-key direction.
Unfortunately Francesco Quinn makes a staggeringly anonymous hero, blending in with the walls and coming over less as a Roman officer than that quiet, slightly gormless but inoffensive guy who works in the same office as you who never says much at office parties - you know, the one who you think is called Dave or something like that. The budgetary limitations are very visible once its Meet the Lions time for the Christians and Ursus battle with the bull is so determinedly low key that it just passes over you before the show just abruptly loses interest and suddenly ends.
Not a trip I can particularly recommend, I'm afraid, but if you do embark on it it's one not entirely without its small rewards.
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