23 October 2005 | bkoganbing
All Roads Lead to Rome
I saw another reviewer remark that he regretted the fact that films like this are not made today. In today's dollars the salaries of all the name actors who appeared in The Fall of the Roman Empire might retire the debt of some third world country. Then again, I think that was part of the message this film was trying to convey.
All roads lead to Rome was certainly a popular saying way back in the day. The legions by 180 have conquered a big chunk of Europe and a lot of Asia Minor, but it's becoming too big to police. Emperor Marcus Aurelius has it in mind that there must be a better way of securing peace than having a big Roman military industrial complex on the empire payroll. Answer, make the outlying provinces all Roman citizens and equalize the distribution of economic goods. Back then all those Roman roads gradually became one way streets.
Unfortunately some folks who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, do in Marcus. He's succeeded by his son Commodus and the film is the story of Commodus who has a more traditional political view and those who want to bring about the ideal world that Marcus Aurelius envisioned.
In a role that cried out for either Kirk Douglas or Charlton Heston, we got Stephen Boyd instead. Boyd in a blonde dye job, just doesn't come across well as the hero Livius. He's so much better as villains in films like The Bravados, Ben-Hur, and Shalako.
But Commodus may very well have been Christopher Plummer's finest performance on screen. The film is not the real story of Commodus's reign, but Plummer does capture the heart and soul of the emperor who ran things from 180 to 192.
Holding up the view of a free and equal world are a couple of classic performances by Alec Guinness as Marcus Aurelius and James Mason as the Greek slave Timonides who counsels Marcus in his changing world view.
And any film is worth watching with Sophia Loren's pulchritude on prominent display.
I'm no expert in ancient history, but this may have been the first time that someone like Marcus Aurelius took a global view of things other than what I can plunder out of my conquests. What's not told in this story is that Christianity is invisible here. Marcus didn't like them at all, thought they were way too exclusive in THEIR view of things.
Nevertheless The Fall of the Roman Empire and the issues it raises from the ancient world are still being thrashed out today. Hoperfully it will all be resolved in the future.