Friday, February 18, 2011

Rome (HBO Series)

Review : Rome (a mini TV series)
Produced by : BBC and HBO
Aired : 2005 to 2007
My rating : 8 out of 10

HBO's "Rome" TV series covers the events of the Roman Empire in 1st century BC. It ran for 2 seasons in 2005 and 2007. Both the seasons are available on DVD. The first season has 12 episodes, starting with Julius Caesar's victorious conquest of Gaul and ending with his assassination on Ides Of March. The second season has 10 episodes beginning with Marc Antony discovering the assassination and ends with his eventual death (along with Cleopatra) when Octavian's (Augustus Caesar) army defeats him in Egypt.

With so many movies already filmed about all stories related to Roman Empire, what's the point in watching a TV series that cannot be really as "grand" ? Plenty of reasons, I would argue. It may not be as grand as a big budget movie, but it's very detailed. And in fact, the budget was not all that small. Due to expenses needed to recreate Rome, the series was cut short to 2 seasons, and the story at the end was compressed to a few episodes.

We follow 2 common soldiers in Julius Caesar's  army, Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo. Their lives are entangled with that of the nobility and all the dirty politics that was rampant during that time. The story of Roman Empire (as much as is covered by the series), remains very faithful to the known history than most of the movies I have seen. Of course, some kind of artistic license is needed to make it dramatic.

Rome is recreated as accurately as is possible. The sets, costumes, customs and daily lives of people in this series feel real. The acting is top notch. You understand every character, the motives and come to like them of hate them. Not a single soul is clean - in fact most are shallow, selfish and outright despicable. But that's how it was. Life was hard. Nothing mattered more than power. Revenge and brutality were commonplace. In spite of the lavish palaces and a Republic government (in theory),  it was not a pretty world for most people, and it's shown as it was.

That's the real strength of the series. It doesn't depict grand battle scenes with awesome CGI effects, but shows the lives of people in extreme close-up. It may be too much of a close-up for many viewers, but that's what the series is about.

I highly recommend this series. But with a strong warning. Things are way too explicit and graphic here. Subtlety is completely nonexistent. If your sensibilities are easily offended, then stay away. I am not exaggerating. This is correctly rated "MA" - and is not suitable even for teenagers.

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