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Rome - Elf M. Sternberg
Omaha and I finally sat down last night to watch the first episode of HBO's new hit show, Rome. I've never been big on HBO's internal programming; I watched a few episodes of The Sopranos and thought it was well-written but not for me. OZ was just depressing, and I never even bothered with Deadwood or Six Feet Under (probably because by then my kids were taking up all my spare time).

But Rome intrigued us enough to actually make some time for it. And it was worth it. This version probably does better than any other in showing the way majesty and squalor played out in ancient Rome, and how "keeping the common people happy and subdued" was the number one duty of those in power so that they may stay in power. Because Rome is on pay cable it can actually show much of what has been hidden from view for most of history: the phallic worship that was a part of daily life. Sex grafitti is everywhere and upper-class whores bargain for power as hard as any gladiator.

There's an ahistorical plot involving the theft of Caesar's army standard, but the way its played out is quite well done. The actor who plays Caesar looks both world-weary and imperial, while Pompey is played with restraint. Only the actor who plays Cato is over the top for my taste, but he was supposed to be a pendantic old fart. Brutus is great, and there's this scene where he and Pompey are talking, and Omaha and I turned to each other and said, "I think Brutus has had just a bit too much to drink." Very well-acted.

Atia, Caesar's niece, is a centerpiece character, both because she uses her body to procure her position in Caesar's attention by sleeping with the men around Caesar (and she has a lovely body with which to do it), and because in one scene she kneels, praying for the safety of her son, under a cage where a bull is to be sacrficed, and the blood just courses over her in a gory shower.

But what really sets this apart from every other Rome ever shown are the sets. They're gorgeous, huge (probably digitally matte'd), brutal and unforgiving. Rome is vibrant and messy, beautiful and cramped, alive and squalid all at the same time. Rome isn't a history lesson, but it gives you a feel for the place that just reading The Gallic Wars or any of a dozen history books won't.

Current Mood: entertained
Current Music: Stephen Foster, That's What's The Matter!

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(Deleted comment)
tagryn From: tagryn Date: November 17th, 2005 10:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
The two "everyman" characters, Pollo and Varenus, are very loosely based on two actual Roman soldiers who Caesar mentions in his history of the Gallic wars, the "Bellum Gallicum." It's in Book 5, 5.44: http://www.alesia.asso.fr/pg/BellumGallicum/BGUk/BGUK-B5.htm

Good news for Elf is that the series hasn't declined in quality as the season has gone alone, so he has some good stuff to look forward to.

I would also place Carnivale above all the others, though I don't know how an antitheist would feel about the thinly-veiled religious connotations of the overarching plot.
intrepid_reason From: intrepid_reason Date: November 17th, 2005 09:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
I am a huge fan of this series! It is lush, and engaging, dark, and very very human. I can't wait for next season!
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