16 May 2006 | alphaboy
No easy viewing, but a compelling study of Roman imperialism and Romanization
Thinking of sword and sandal movies (aka 'peplums'), I get the picture of a bodybuilder struggling through a think plot as stereotypical, stupid and colorful as possible. Candy stuff. That's what I expected when I started watching this film. What I got was something completely different: a more realistic, serious and pensive approach to the genre. For peplum fans, the battle scenes are a feast: The costumes are well done, looking as real as it gets at that time, and the fighting is convincing and violent. However, compared to other peplums, the movie is unusually dark and pessimistic in tone, mainly as a result of four factors: 1. The heavy, almost operatic soundtrack, which is a far shot from being easy on the ears. 2. The cinematography, which makes sporadic use of modernistic techniques such as extremely fast cuts and image distortion. 3. The set design and locations, mostly in the (Carpatian?) mountains, where mist or the black smoke rising from pillaged and burnt down villages is nearly omnipresent. 4. The plot and dialogue, which cleverly let viewer sympathies oscillate between the Roman conquerors and the Dacian guerillas. The film takes on the problems of Roman imperialistc policy in a truly epic fashion. Most of the plot is concerned about the leaders, their marriage, and their offspring. It is here that central concepts of imperialism are put to the test. Should the Romans still be fought once they have conquered the land and want to establish peace and prosperity? The dialogue reveals the troubled position the Roman general has to defend: "You will have your peace, whether you want it or not!!" The mixed Roman-Dacian love affair at the core of the film is unfortunately marred by inconclusive character design. Still, the movie is well worth a look, since it does not hesitate to draw the final consequence from all the violence and counterviolence, ending on a dark note. No happy end in sight for the Romanian nation to come: there will be fighting, more and more.