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Andre de Nesnera
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In 42 BC Rome is in the middle of a civil war. Together with his friend AGRIPPA, the young Augustus goes to Spain in order to help JULIUS CAESAR in his struggle against the troops of POMPEY. Even though they are outnumbered, they manage to defeat Pompey. Caesar honours his adopted son Augustus with a triumphal entry into Rome and then sends him to Greece together with his friends Agrippa and Maecenas. There, Augustus hears the news of Caesar's assassination and he returns to Rome with his friends. Back in Rome, he is able to gain both the support of the people and political power. In his struggle with the conspirators against Caesar he finds an ally in MARC ANTONY. Marc Antony not only pursues BRUTUS and CASSIUS, he also initiates a wave of executions which practically eliminates the old Roman ruling class. Among those who are killed is the husband of LIVIA DRUSILLA, a woman with whom Augustus had been in love as a young man. Through a combination of good luck and chance, Augustus and... Written by
The above comments are too harsh, but the film is by no means great.
The bad parts first. The CGI - if thats what it is - is very poor for audiences raised on "Gladiator" and the rest of the sword-and-sandal epics, to say nothing of contemporary TV productions like Channel Four's "The Ancient Egyptians". All of the battle scenes suffer as a result, and this is worsened by some shots of legionaries being hit by arrows and pila that are utterly laughable - one soldier can be seen to pull the spear into his body, others are already grabbing the part the arrow hits before it hits. Moreover, the battles they represent are meaningless, as they neglect to show either Phillipi or Actium in any detail that could do them justice.
The script is a bizarre mishmash of historical accuracy and modern elements, the most obvious being the character of Maecenas, brought in for some reason to be both comic relief and "the only gay in the village". The continual harping on about Rome also grates somewhat, though this tends to die out towards the end; for that matter the original insistence that Octavian and Agrippa were "country boys" is incorrect - Octavian's father had been praetor.
The filming location - in Bizerte - is also very obviously not Italy, and since a recurring element of the film is the activity in and around the forum, this is noticeable more than it would have been if the activity was focused in the senate.
Despite all that, there is still an OK film lurking beneath the surface. Peter O'Toole does a good - if bored - turn as the elderly Augustus, Livia (who the historical sources believe was as manipulative as she is portrayed here Marcus - Caligula was to call her "Ulysses in petticoats") is played well by both actresses, with exactly the right amount of malice; Michele Bevilacqua's Tiberius is suitably reluctant to assume the burden of the Empire and Julia, as well as nagged by Livia (though he shunned Julia, and appealed against her banishment - so the rape scene was unjustified).
Despite what Marcus wrote above, the treatment of Julia in this film - aside from the rape - is justified by the extant evidence, she was banished for adultery, after a complaint by her father using a law he had brought about with Iullus.
Its also much more historically accurate than most films - it sticks closely to Suetonius's "Life of the Deified Augustus" (aside from the gripes mentioned above) and far better than more expensive films (King Arthur bow your head in shame), and is well worth watching for anyone who is prepared to accept some bizarre script moments in order to learn something of history.
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