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In 73 BCE, a Thracian slave leads a revolt at a gladiatorial school run by Lentulus Batiatus. The uprising soon spreads across the Italian Peninsula involving thousand of slaves. The plan is to acquire sufficient funds to acquire ships from Silesian pirates who could then transport them to other lands from Brandisium in the south. The Roman Senator Gracchus schemes to have Marcus Publius Glabrus, Commander of the garrison of Rome, lead an army against the slaves who are living on Vesuvius. When Glabrus is defeated his mentor, Senator and General Marcus Licinius Crassus is greatly embarrassed and leads his own army against the slaves. Spartacus and the thousands of freed slaves successfully make their way to Brandisium only to find that the Silesians have abandoned them. They then turn north and must face the might of Rome.Written by
Peter Ustinov first met Kirk Douglas shooting the scene when Lentulus Batiatus discovers Spartacus chained to a rock. Because Douglas was so ragged looking, he didn't recognize the man. See more »
Many of the horsemen use stirrups, an invention which did not reach Europe until about the 7th century A.D., eight centuries after the film is set. See more »
In the last century before the birth of the new faith called Christianity, which was destined to overthrow the pagan tyranny of Rome and bring about a new society, the Roman Republic stood at the very center of the civilized world. "Of all things fairest," sang the poet, "first among cities and home of the gods is golden Rome." Yet, even at the zenith of her pride and power, the Republic lay fatally stricken with a disease called human slavery. The age of the dictator was at hand, ...
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The opening titles appear in a montage of silhouetted Roman sculptures and tablets, which evokes the strength and power of the Roman Empire. The montage ends with a zoom into the eye of a crumbling Roman bust, which hints at the Empire's coming decline and fall. See more »
As a historical epic, 'Spartacus' stands out from the crowd.
The film has the basic theme of 'force' versus 'an idea'. One man - Spartacus- has the idea of freedom, which is pitted through his slave army against the entire force of the Roman Empire.
In Spartacus's eventual defeat, force seems to be victorious, but we know with hindsight that it is Spartacus' idea that finally prevails, albeit long after his death, with the abolition of slavery. As the opening narration makes clear, as a young man Spartacus would dream of the death of slavery - "two thousand years before it finally would die." Kirk Douglas gives an inspiring performance as the brutalised and uneducated slave rising above his degradation to find love, leadership and high ideals.
The film closely interweaves the fate of Spartacus with that of Roman politics. His slave rebellion contributes to the fall of Gracchus, the main Republican advocate, and the corresponding rise of authoritarian Crassus. In a way, Spartacus is portrayed as a catalyst for a new era of Roman dictatorship under the Caesars; by suppressing his slave rebellion, Rome sets itself irrevocably on a path away from Republic and freedom, and perhaps confirms its eventual downfall. Some historical licence, no doubt; but a thought-provoking concept.
Unlike many other Roman epics such as 'Ben-Hur' and 'The Robe', the film does not have a Christian motif. However, 'Spartacus' epitomises the triumph of the human spirit in a way that few movies do. Even after his death, not only Spartacus' son but his spirit lives on,if only in man's perennial cry for freedom. The slave leader's resolve, and his will to freedom, remain true to the end.
Considering that it was made in 1960, the film's confronting of hard themes is notable. For example, we have the hint of forbidden homosexual/ bisexual desires from Crassus to Antoninus; the seeming death and failure (but perhaps ultimate victory)for the hero, who traditionally should triumph; and unpleasant scenes involving battlefields and rows of crucified bodies.
The movie is helped by an excellent cast, an evocative score and Stanley Kubrick's direction. The sets and costumes also show great attention to detail, so that ancient Roman society comes alive.
Overall a most entertaining and inspiring movie.
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