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So how about Rome, then?

Initial reaction - I liked it a lot. Good characterisations, plenty of interesting details to look out for in the sets, and accessible without being too patronising. Sure, there are some historical liberties being taken. If little Octavius ever got captured by Pompey's agents in Gaul, the event was so successfully hushed up that there's absolutely no trace of it left anywhere, in any of the historical records. But it developed his character, and also helped to clarify the enmity between Pompey and Caesar.

I'm pleased, in fact, to see Octavius taking such a central role. In fact, I'd go as far right now as to say that it looks to my eye very much as though the whole production has really been conceived from the start as his story. Not Julius Caesar's, not Mark Antony's. It starts at the very point when the young Octavius is just beginning to become actively involved in the affairs of his family and the politics of Rome. Of course, his story involves some major secondary players, and I'm sure they will have their moments. But in terms of the grand arc of the production, it looks to me as though it is his life story that will form the central peg on which all others hang. And so it should, because he is amazing.

It's a pity, that being the case, that they've got his name wrong. He didn't officially become Octavian(us) until adopted by Julius Caesar, and he didn't use the name himself even then. And a pity that we didn't get to see his first real major public appearance in Rome - the delivery of the funeral oration for his dead grandmother, Julia. But I suppose that that would only have worked for an audience familiar with the device of the Roman funeral oration, and who wants to hear a long boring speech anyway, when they can see him nearly getting killed in Gaul?

On the plus side, his costume was excellent (a bulla! and a toga praetexta!), his physical appearance convincingly like his later portrait images (as indeed was the case for most of the major characters) and his characterisation just perfect. The nerdy kid with a vicious streak, already unnervingly au fait with Roman politics and keen to manipulate and control. Oh yes, all just ready to flower into a most excellent Augustus.

I look forward to seeing more: of him, of the sets, and of the fine details of HBO's Roman world.

Edited 03/11/05 to correct mistake about Julia.

Comments

( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
megamole
Nov. 2nd, 2005 10:22 pm (UTC)
Hrum, Octavian was a bit of a priss. My favourite was Titus Pullo, the Lairy Legionary from Latium. Sort of a Roman Vinnie Jones.

I'm sure Vercingetorix could have afforded a barber, too.
strange_complex
Nov. 2nd, 2005 10:30 pm (UTC)
That's the thing, though. He was. That's why I liked the portrayal so much.

Pullo I liked more than I expected, and Vorenus too. I didn't expect to be keen on either of them, because they're not historically documented, and have obviously been inserted to give us 'ordinary' characters to relate to. But I was wrong, and being snobbish - in fact, the series does need characters like that. They're well-fleshed-out and promise to become more so, and they give us access to parts of the Roman world that we wouldn't so readily get to see through the historical characters (like prison cells, gambling dens and brothels). They've been put together very plausibly to fill the gaps which an elite-centric written record leaves for us, and to allow HBO to convey a wider view of the Roman world.

So hooray for them.
rosamicula
Nov. 2nd, 2005 10:53 pm (UTC)
I couldn't agree more. I just wish it had all been a bit slower and more detailed.
strange_complex
Nov. 2nd, 2005 10:57 pm (UTC)
Yes, but there's a lot of this still to come. I think you'll get to know all the characters a great deal better as the series progresses.

And telepathy - of course! But then again, what were either of us going to do after posting about Rome than trawl LJ looking for other posts about it to comment on? :)
rosamicula
Nov. 2nd, 2005 10:57 pm (UTC)
Ooh quick - watch newsnight that are doing a skit on Tony Blair and Julius Caesar with footage form Rome. i'd phone bu I can't find my noby!
strange_complex
Nov. 2nd, 2005 11:00 pm (UTC)
I dashed to the telly as soon as I saw this, but I think I missed most of it. There was just some guy commenting on Blunkett's resignation in front of a 'mosaic' portrait of Pompey from the series. Still, nice touch by Newsnight!
rosamicula
Nov. 3rd, 2005 06:57 am (UTC)
That wasn't Pompey - that was Blair Caesar!
strange_complex
Nov. 3rd, 2005 09:22 am (UTC)
Blair Caesar! *looks forward to the assassination*
swisstone
Nov. 2nd, 2005 11:39 pm (UTC)
I think you have your Julias muddled. A quick consultation of the OCD reveals that the Julia for whom the young Octavius orated was his maternal grandmother, Caesar's sister, not Caesar's daughter.
strange_complex
Nov. 3rd, 2005 09:16 am (UTC)
Yes, and since Caesar was Octavius' great-uncle, surely his sister would be Octavius' great-aunt?
strange_complex
Nov. 3rd, 2005 09:17 am (UTC)
Oh, no, wait - I see what you mean. She's the grandmother through whom Caesar is his great-uncle, and therefore a closer relation than great-aunt. But I was still clear on it being Caesar's sister.
swisstone
Nov. 3rd, 2005 09:34 am (UTC)
No, my point was not that you've got the family relationship wrong, but that you've got two separate individuals confused. The Julia whose death is an important plot point in the first episode, Pompey's wife, was Caesar's daughter (d. 54 BC). The Julia for whom Octavius read the funeral oration was a different Julia, Caesar's sister (d. 51 BC). (And I wonder if when talking about the 'oration for his dead great aunt' you aren't actually thinking of yet another Julia, the aunt of Caesar himself and mother of Marius, for whom Caesar performed the funeral oration.)
strange_complex
Nov. 3rd, 2005 09:52 am (UTC)
Oh, gosh - yes, I do see what you mean now. No, I'm not getting confused with Caesar's oration in 69, but I did think there for a minute that Pompey had been married to Caesar's sister. Of course he wasn't, you're right, and indeed she was referred to early on in the programme itself as Caesar's daughter, now I come to think of it. Although, in my defence, last night's episode had conflated the events of the last few years of the Gallic Wars so seriously that 54 and 51 rather merged with one another, and it becomes almost a pardonable mistake in that context!
kernowgirl
Nov. 3rd, 2005 07:41 am (UTC)
Blast it. Now I'm really annoyed that I missed it. I'll try and remember next week.
swisstone
Nov. 3rd, 2005 08:47 am (UTC)
There's a Sunday night repeat on BBC1.
timsmith
Nov. 3rd, 2005 08:26 am (UTC)
i'm up to episode 6 of the 9 they have shown over in america, and it is very good, well worth following.
strange_complex
Nov. 3rd, 2005 09:19 am (UTC)
Cool, I hoped that would be the case from what we saw last night. Good to have it confirmed.
angeoverhere
Nov. 3rd, 2005 08:53 am (UTC)
Have been looking forward to reading what you thought of it. I liked it very much, noticed that the time went very fast, which is always a good sign. Something that I feel bodes well, drama-wise, is that whoever cast Kevin McKidd as Lucius has obviously seen Dog Soldiers, in which the character is pretty similar, and just generally a fab film.
strange_complex
Nov. 3rd, 2005 09:21 am (UTC)
Ah - I haven't seen Dog Soldiers, so that aspect was lost on me. In fact, of all the cast, Lindsey Duncan is the only one I really know of (and like very much) from previous work. But I was thinking as I watched it that that is probably a good thing, as I don't come to their characters with preconceptions based on the actors' previous work.
angeoverhere
Nov. 3rd, 2005 09:30 am (UTC)
Watch it - 'tis fab (tho v. scary)

There were a lot of familiar faces, but not famous enough to get in the way. I also love the way that posh Brits make such good Romans..
edling
Nov. 3rd, 2005 09:43 am (UTC)
I've actualyl got a copy of it on my desk that our secretary's lent me- as I've not seen it, and I don't think Cat has either, it sounds like a burgeoning excuse for a video party...
strange_complex
Nov. 3rd, 2005 09:53 am (UTC)
Cool, sounds fun!
angeoverhere
Nov. 3rd, 2005 10:10 am (UTC)
You're going to love it - it's such a gun/film/roleplay muppet's kind of a film. Watch out for Spoon :D
jestive
Nov. 3rd, 2005 10:40 am (UTC)
I forgot it was on :( I did manage to see the last 10 minutes by wandering into the lounge while theguywhoisstayingwithusfortwoweeks was watching it. All I got from those 10 minutes that there was a lot of sex, especially for a BBC program. And that it's repeated on Sunday, so I shall try to remember it for then.
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )

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