11 September 2005 | gradyharp
Another in the Series of Imperium - Nero's Life Tidied Up A Lot
The miniseries made of television that examines the highlights of the Roman Empire ('Imperium: Augustus' was the first). While the sets and costumes and flavor and atmosphere of that phenomenal period in history is well captured and the production qualities are strong, the historical accuracy is diminished by 'cleaning up' the facts and rearranging dates and incidents to make a 'Hollywood version' of the Roman Empire.
Given the fact that this is not a biopic but rather an entertainment, IMPERIUM: NERO is interesting, if long at 192 minutes, to watch in continuity. Nero was born in 37 AD and died in 68 AD and during those 31 years much changed in Rome. We first met Nero as a child 'abolished' to a life with the slaves by the infighting among the Emperors - Caligula (John Simm) and Claudius (Massimo Dapporto) - and the Senate - namely Porridus (Simón Andreu), Burrus (Maurizio Donadoni), and Septimus (Ian Richardson). While living among the people we are informed that Nero (a fine Hans Matheson) falls in love with commoner slave Acte (Rike Schmid) and when misdeeds in Rome call him back to power (through the wily and devious guidance of his mother Agrippina (Laura Morante, the true star of this film), Nero is forced to marry well and forswear his love for Acte. Once proclaimed Emperor, Nero does some bad things such as having his brother Britannicus (Francesco Venditti) killed, etc and begins to descend into madness instead of fulfilling his vision of creating an empire for the people. His teachers include wise Seneca (Matthias Habich) and commoner Etius (Jochen Horst) and his loyal friends include Tegellinus (Mario Opinato). Once on his downward spiral Nero begins to murder and destroy those close to him and finally burns the city of Rome to prepare the ground for his grand palace and city, all the while playing on is lyre.
If this all sounds wicked and cruel, then it is probably better that the story didn't 'flesh out' the true obese, schizophrenic, megalomaniacal, sexually dysfunctional creature that was Nero. You need the history books to see what a hideous tyrant he was, a man who placed his acting and circus skills above all else, castrating young boys who resembled his mother to marry while also marrying the prostitute Poppea (Elisa Tovati). But the major problem with this version of Nero's tenure is the emphasis on the new sect called Christians. Indeed, even the apostle Paul is brought in to cleanse the proceedings and seep evangelicalism into the story to help it end! But for the script as written (by Paul Billing and Francesco Contaldo) director Paul Marcus brings off a fascinating though long image of the Roman Empire. Not for Roman scholars perhaps, but for those who enjoy historically based epics, this NERO should do nicely Grady Harp