Thursday, 18 February 2010

The glory that was Rome

I've recently been re-watching the stunning TV series Rome on DVD and was sad to remember that, after two seasons, it was considered too expensive to keep going. Visually it's absolutely magnificent - there aren't many TV programmes that can transport the viewer so completely into a different time and place. The beautiful interiors of some of the villas take the visual side of the story a big step beyond earlier depictions like the otherwise excellent I, Claudius. I have both seasons of Rome, but not on HD discs. Such is the quality of the lighting and the DVD transfers that, on my Sony S-350 Blu-ray player and 40W5500 TV, it's hard to tell the difference between the upscaled DVD image and a Blu-ray. Performances are generally excellent, particularly Kenneth Cranham as Pompey, David Bamber as Cicero, Polly Walker as Atia and Lindsay Duncan as Servilia.

For me, this portrayal of Rome works much better than, say, the film Gladiator because it isn't so "po-faced". I love the colloquialisms that others criticised - to hear a character say "She gave me a look like Medusa on the rag" just makes it all the more real for me, a reminder that ancient Rome had its everyday side, easily forgotten when you go into a museum and see only great statues or buildings.

I'm not a huge fan of TV and film violence, and there are moments in the series when I have to look away, but the brutality and casual cruelty that feature largely in the programme seem to me exactly right for the time and the society that are being depicted.

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