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I disagree with other reviewers who were quite negative on this
production. I quite enjoyed it and will recommend it for anyone
interested in classical history. Admittedly, some of the acting was not
first-rate, especially among the non native English speaking actors. I
had the feeling their lines were dubbed in.
That aside, I liked the way it recounted the life of Augustus in the form of a long conversation with his daughter Julia with flashbacks. Yes, some of the historical details were a bit off. But it's tempting to compare it with other productions such as I Claudius and Cleopatra (the latter played even more loosely with historical fact). This production explored why Augustus, Julia, Livia, and others did what they did.
Others complained it was too long; on the contrary, I would like to have it longer and fill more detail in some of the years in Augustus's life that were not covered or glossed over.
The recreations of the Forum, the Curia, and other locations were the best I've seen. Unlike other productions such as Gladiator, the producers strives for accuracy rather than a Rome of the imagination and exaggeration.
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.
Well I have not the faintest idea how accurate this mini-series is
historically but it's not as bad as previous IMDb reviewers have
It is a talk-athon and some of the dubbed actors are really out of their depth. The young Augustus is played well, multi-layered and rather complex and unpredictable. Mark Anthony and Cleopatra are an aside, and performed in a bland obvious manner. Charlotte Rampling is frighteningly real.
But it is O'Toole's show all the way as the older Augustus.
After 30 years of "wafer thin ham" acting this and his performance in "Troy" show what an experienced actor can do with a good part. It is a grand part for an actor and makes the 3 hour journey quite moving at times. So the grand total as an entertainment experience is....6/10
AUGUSTUS (also known as IMPERIUM: AUGUSTUS) is a film made for
television, which could explain how its three and one half hour length
would be spread over at least three nights. This movie was made with an
obvious plentiful budget, sponsored by the Italian government and US
filmmakers, and the result is a complex and nicely detailed
biographical study of the first Emperor of Rome, Augustus Caesar, the
man whose reign spanned the BC/AD time frame with all the attendant
changes in world geography and history and religious orders. It was a
time of Rome's greatness and a time of Rome's disintegration.
Writer Eric Lerner and Director Roger Young wisely elected to tell this tale as a series of flashbacks as recalled by the aged, dying Augustus brilliantly portrayed by Peter O'Toole. His very presence gives the project credibility and dignity and helps the viewer forgive any of the many shortcomings that dot this epic. Augustus is attended by his wife Livia (again, a wise choice in casting the always superb Charlotte Rampling to bring this odd woman to life). With some adroit camera superimpositions of the old Augustus' face the story goes back in time to the death of Julius Caesar, the one who appointed the young Augustus (Benjamin Sadler) to be his successor. It is 42 BC and the young Augustus, together with his sidekicks Agrippa (Ken Duken) and Maecenas (Russell Barr in a foppish turn), struggle through the Senate, the noblemen, and the poor people of Rome who all have been ignored during Julius Caesar's infamous wars to expand the Empire. The complicated lineage to the 'throne' of Rome is manipulated by Julia (Vittoria Belvedere), Marc Antony (Massimo Ghini), Tiberius (Michele Bevilacqua) and Iullus (Juan Diego Botto), the son of Marc Antony, among many others.
Along the way we meet Cleopatra (Anne Valle) and Cicero (Gottfried John) and many of the other casually dropped names of Roman history. Though the names and the changes of who is ruling who at any one time can be confusing to even the most astute Roman historian, the writer and director do their best to make this story flow so that it all is of a piece. The acting is superb for the leads, adequate for the secondary roles, and the camera work manages to make the numerous battlefield sequences seem cogent.
In the end is the beginning: the death of Augustus. A casual mention is made that during his reign there was born in the land of Judea a child whose name was Jesus...and suddenly the whole lengthy film gathers more meaning. This is a fine overview of Roman history and civilization and thanks to the fine work by Peter O'Toole and Charlotte Rampling the result is very satisfying. Grady Harp
This movie's historical accuracy was matched by it's overall quality of performance and filming. Peter O'Toole is an extremely talented actor and the rest of the cast, though unknown to me, did an equally fine job. The sets and costuming were impressively accurate as were the battle scenes and no one threw a single sword! Truly, a gem which I discovered quite by chance and sincerely recommend to anyone sick of attempts at historical movies that get butchered by film-makers that haven't got a clue and are just worried about making these historical figures into comic book super heroes. A must-see for the serious history buff.
The movie deals upon Octavio Augusto's(Peter O'Toole)epic life since
the first triumvirate: 'Craso,Pompeyo and Julio Cesar'. Julius
Caesar(Gerard Klein) and Augustus -nephew and heir of Cesar- fight
against Pompeyo who's vanquished in Munda and Farsalia. At the 'Idus of
March' Julio Cesar is killed by Bruto and Casio .Marco Antonius(Maximo
Ghini) and Augustus defeat them in Filipos.
The second triumvirate is formed : Marco Antonio rules over Egypt, Lepido in Africa and Augustus governs over Rome and Hispania where he defeats Cantabros and Astures. Marco Antonius is married to Octavia (Elena Ballesteros), Augustus's sister. After that, Marco Antonio is wedded to Cleopatra but they are defeated by Augustus in ¨Actium¨. Octavio Augusto married Livia (Charlotte Rampling)who had formerly given birth one son, named Tiberio. Julia, who was born in a previous marriage of Octavio, marries general Agripa and had two children: Cayo and Lucio, early deceased. Tiberius will inherit the empire.
The runtime movie is overlong , it's a bit boring but it will appeal to history buffs. It's an European co-production made by some countries: Germany,France, Spain and England. Direction by Roger Young is nice, first rate set design , the film is very atmospheric, Roman time is well designed. Cinematography and Pino Donaggio's music is excellent. Rating 6,5. Charming, well worth seeing.
AUGUSTUS isn't the best it could be, lacking the historical accuracy
that previous reviewers have been kicking a screaming about; it is
because of the pointless stereotypical Julia, who is always made out to
be a villain and Augustus a wounded. However, the tales of Augustus
daughter Julia are mainly made of rumours, the likelihood she was a
prostitute is slim and chances are Iullus was one of her only, if not
only, lover. Read your historical notes and what historians say today,
chances are you'll find her in a new light. AUGUSTUS shows Julia as the
wounded daughter she was; mistreated and thrown around just for her
father's own delights. When you consider that he treated her like that
and that she had a father who led a far kinkier and scandalous sex
life, is it any wonder his daughter, who apart from her adulteries had
no bad vein in her body, ended up the way she did?
Augustus (Peter O'Toole) is on his deathbed, overlooking how he "played his part in this comedy called life," and he takes us back several years to the high point of his rein. His daughter Julia (Vittoria Belvedere) is married to his beloved friend and ally, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, and together the two have had a pair of lovely sons, Gaius and Lucius, who are "just like their grandfather" and running around in army gear, rather like how Julia's daughter Agrippina (oddly missing from the movie) would do for her youngest son Gaius, or Caligula, thirty or so years later. Of course, the bubble bursts when Augustus is nearly murdered by an assassin, only saved by his leather breast plate, and Julia receives dreadful news: her husband Agrippa has died. He tells her of his earlier days when he was a sickly eighteen-year-old, who one day gets a letter from Julius Caesar, despite the pleas of his mother, "Your father would forbid it!" Octavius (Benjamin Sander) reminds her that, "only your uncle treats me like a son," leaps on a horse with Marcus Agrippa (Ken Duken) another eighteen-year-old, who dreams of becoming a soldier, to join the army. The story seems to take us through a romanticised view of Octavius growth into manhood along side his two friends Marcus Agrippa and Gaius Maecenas (Russell Barr), a man who is clearly thrown in for a giggle.
Agrippa represents the world that we all want to be apart of, yet he doesn't live in a fool's paradise like Octavius does, and towards the end of the flashbacks he finally pulls his friend out of belief that sticking to the nobles will save him; he has to suppress them. Interestingly, they show us how Agrippa built the great aqueducts, proving himself not only to be a great soldier but also one of history's great architect. Ironically, Maecenas mocks him by saying, "At least we'll be able to get some lovely fountains out of it!" Cleopatra is just as she should be, not a Liz Taylor but a real malicious mastermind. Julia does as she's told but is so trapped that she can't help but loom for ways out. Tiberius is a pig and his mother Livia too ambitious, and it's refreshing that Augustus actually "gets" that Livia wants Tiberius to be emperor. Iullus Antonius, who wants revenge for his father's murder at first, uses the vulnerable widow of Agrippa to in his plan. The irony being of course that lovely Agrippa warned Octavius when he saved Iullus' life that this would one day come to pass. In a way, Iullus cheats both his saviours, not only seducing Augustus' daughter but also taking Agrippa's wife and using her against the man he spent his whole life protecting. Of course the plot falls through when Iullus ends up falling in love with her proving himself a true Antonius boy"a woman changed Antony, you could change Iullus" Augustus says and by god, Julia does.
The acting is still great, though many see O'Toole as the best: the desperation of Belvedere's Julia, the cunning of Rampling's Livia, the nobleness of Duken's Agrippa and the deep love that Barr's Maecenas has for Augustus really does touch you and makes their characters come alive.
The only thing that is disappointing is that it didn't cover the whole of the history, the Battle of Actium was rushed, we never see two of Augustus wives and we don't know what happened after the civil war was over, which is probably some of the most interesting part. Various other characters were clearly cut to save time for the film, Octavia's first husband, her children, Fulvia, Sextus, Drusus, who was Livia's other son and various others. If anything, this show would have been better off as a mini series and covering other important parts of history like the self-exile of Agrippa because of Marcellus, and how his death resulted in Agrippa's marriage to Juliathat would have been a story worth hearing.
If you're not interested in history, then you could just watch it for its soap opera feel, with the drama, attempted assassination and Julia's affair with Iullus Antonius driving her husband into raping her, we might as well have been watching an ancient rendition of DAYS OF OUR LIVES, only it's much better! Boys will also be happy to see that they get a hot babe to stare at in the form of Augustus' daughter Julia for half of the film. Don't worry, fear not girls, because in the other half, ladies such as us, also get a hot and handsome treat in the form Agrippa. My point being is that there is something for everyone. Filled with comic relief, a few wars, a few scandals, a troublesome wife, a few hot wild affairs, a hot chick for the boys and a cute guy for the girls, it pretty much does have everything you need to make history come alive.
One of the best movies I've seen since Lion of Winter with Katherine
Hepburn. Peter O'Toole's performance is on par with her performance.
Altogether a magnificent movie with lush sets and sterling acting from
a host of actors unknown in the United States. I'm particularly
enamored of Ken Duken as the you Agrippa and would like to see more
A great blend of the full range of human emotions humor included at just the appropriate moment to keep it from becoming depressing.
I highly recommend this movie - do be aware, however that it is very long - although worth every minute.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Augustus is a great movie. The range of the movie is wide. The movie depicts his role in the Hispanic war along with Caesar until his death. There are certain sections in the movie which are very true to history. Some of them which are not true to history are not very important as well. Movie begins with old Augustus mourning the death of his friend, son in law and General Agrippina with his daughter. Movies keeps going back in to long flashbacks. The transition is brilliant. This movie works for me at all levels acting, camera, characterization, range and above all facts. I prefer an 'Augustus' over 'Lawrence of Arabia' for the simple reason it shows what happened and not an interpretation of the director. Some of the important details are missing from the movie which in my opinion is OK even if they are missing like Augustus butchered the son of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar; Augustus's daughter was first married to Mark Anthony and Augustus's sister's son. I think movie wasted the character of Cicero but its OK as the movie was only about Augustus. The characterization was convincing. The whole section where Augustus assimilates power is very well done. Peter O'Tool as Augustus is quite good. Benjamin Sadler as Octavius is OK. Massimo Ghinni as Mark Anthony is very good. All the senate scenes are done in a very good taste. Good movie.
Let us paint the scene: The year is 12BC. The republic has been
replaced with the imperial family, the rebels are gathering and the
fight for the succession is on. Frankly, it is like THE WAR OF THE
ROSES, Ancient Roman style! The side most are routing for is the
current emperor Augustus, and Julia, his beautiful, clever and liberal
daughter. They stand for rights for the plebs and responsibility of the
nobles, rather then for them to lay around on their backsides in
litters. The father and daughter are at war against the cunning,
merciless and sly Livia Drusilla, who has a strong desire to see her
own son, Tiberius, on the throne. A believe so strong that he should be
the next man "worthy of the name Caesar" she even tries to sway her
husband Augustus into it. He of course always says no.
This is the first point of greatness in this moderately made TV drama: Augustus is not a dolt like he is in I, CLAUDIUS, he is as he should have been: knowing, ruthless and in league with everyone. Augustus did know everything and wasn't at all as stupid as Robert Graves wanted us to believe he was. He knew how Livia's mind worked and knew how to take care of her. Despite all arguments from both parties, they don't really love one another, they are like friendly rivals who both want their children to become leader of some big corporation.
Of course the victims in the war against each other are Julia and Tiberius, who both hold the love or their father/mother, but have different ideas on how they'd rather spend their day. Augustus wants a baby-making, obedient daughter and mother-of-Roman-future in Julia. What Julia wants is to live up for a lot of lost living, marry Iullus Antonius and settle down nicely. Also, despite what Livia wants, Tiberius would be more content matching in the army, sleeping out in the open and throwing stones into the sea.
There are historical tidbits about his show you might want to know. For example, Marcus Agrippa and Julia are lacking three children in this show! They were baby-making machines in reality, having one child back to back with each other. Also, Julia was banished in 2 BC not 12 BC, and her sons died in different years, not the same year.
Nonetheless, I'd give it a watch if you want a bit of fun. It's long but certainly worth a rent-it or even buy-it cry. The DVD doesn't cost much, so give it a go.
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