I’ve been a bit slow on the film reviewing front because I’ve been really enjoying getting stuck into a new television show (at least, it’s new to me). I’m currently watching season one of HBO’s Rome and am absolutely loving it for a number of reasons. Ten main ones, to be exact.
If you’re unaware of the general plot of Rome, it loosely follows two Roman soldiers following different paths; the noble minded Vorenus (Kevin McKidd), and the thuggish Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson). Further, it follows the politics of the time, and the rivalry between Gaius Julius Caesar and Pompey, as well as the lives of the noble and less than noble people of the historical city. All of these characters are framed within the historical context of Ancient Rome just before its fall. The series aired from 2005 until 2007, and unfortunately was cancelled after just two seasons.
Below are the ten reasons why I’m loving Rome at the moment, which also double as reasons why you should also watch the series!
1. Spotting all the Game of Thrones actors
I had no idea how many actors from Game of Thrones also starred in Rome, but it’s a pretty big number. It’s honestly really fun figuring out who played who. Most notably, Indira Varma who played Ellaria Sand (Prince Oberyn’s paramour) in season four of Game of Thrones plays Vorenus’ wife Niobe, and Ciaran Hinds who played Mance Rayder in seasons three and four plays Gaius Julius Caesar. There are quite a few other smaller roles filled by Thrones actors, but I won’t spoil them for you.
2. The opening title sequence where the graffiti of Rome comes to life
My partner and I differ significantly on this issue – he thinks the opening title sequence looks tacky and cheap but I really like it. It looks as if the people walking throughout the streets of Rome are in slow motion or as if there are frames missing whilst they move, but in the background, the graffiti text and images on the walls and columns of Rome moves about in a lively manner, and smooth – as if the graffiti is the real focus rather than the movement of the people around it. Which, considering the importance of graffiti as a means of communication in Ancient Rome, makes a lot of sense.
3. The costume and set design
Absolutely beautiful. This is no Friday night toga party, this is seriously gorgeous and detailed costume design. There is so much attention to detail – as if you were living during that time, you can pretty much tell exactly what rank in society has according to the quality of their clothing. Roughly made fabrics indicate the plebs and working class, whereas fine fabrics and ornamental detail to varying degrees indicates a higher societal rank. The set design is also amazing and makes me wish I had a time travelling machine to go back to Ancient Rome and visit the beautiful buildings and streets.
4. Buddy cops Vorenus and Pullo
Watching these two bros complement each other has been a joy from the very beginning. Obviously I haven’t seen all of the episodes so I’m unsure how their relationship is going to turn out, but it’s just so much fun to watch their different personalities and values clash, but for them to also care for one another at the same time. Their two actors have some lovely chemistry which is so watchable.
5. Authenticity over accuracy
When I was doing some (spoiler free) reading about the series, a phrase I kept hearing was “authenticity over accuracy”; referring to the fact that the characters and events in the show are based on actual history, and the question of whether or not the show should represent these with accuracy. What the show has gone for instead is an overall sense of authenticity and congruence whilst crafting a storyline and its characters, as opposed to black and white historical accuracy. Normally this would slightly annoy me, but I enjoy it with this show. If the show were to be 100% historically accurate half of the awesome drama wouldn’t have happened, which would be a shame. The changes they have made have ensured that a truly engaging and interesting storyline has been crafted.
6. An excellent script
The script is just great. Some cracking dialogue and stage direction make even the longest of monologues unmissable. I will say that the first two or so episodes are fairly information-heavy in terms of the script, but once you get over that initial learning period, the script and dialogue runs so smoothly. And once you get to know the characters more, the dialogue becomes more and more compelling.
7. Intriguing drama (even if you know your history)
You would think that if you have a basic knowledge of Ancient Rome and its key players, that you would feel that the story is spoiled or is predictable as a result. (Hint: Brutus, as played by Tobias Menzies, also a Game of Thrones cast member, plays a key role in a certain something something that I haven’t yet seen on screen). This is where the “authenticity over accuracy” factor comes into play – because certain artistic licenses have been taken with the history, the show’s story still seems fresh and surprising, and is a highly intriguing drama as a result.
8. The exposition orator
This guy rules. He may look familiar, as the actor (Ian McNiece) is in numerous BBC dramas and many popular films. This orator speaks up every now and then to inform Romans on the streets, and also the show’s audience, of certain events or progressions in the story. Some may call this clumsy exposition but I would disagree. Having an orator character like this one to tell us of updates on wars et cetera is in keeping with Roman history – there would normally be someone on the street reading news like this guy. In that sense, it’s a perfectly acceptable method of updating the audience on what we need to know, and it’s very effective in doing so.
9. Ciaran Hinds as Gaius Julius Caesar
You may recognise Ciaran Hinds from his performance as Mance Rayder on Game of Thrones, but I like his performance as the one and only Gaius Julius Caesar much better. For one thing, he gives Julius Caesar so much humanity, and it all comes down to his wonderful acting and facial expressions. Each scene he’s in is so powerful even if it’s nothing much. If anything, watching him in Rome makes me look forward to his future performances on Game of Thrones. I think I might pay a lot more attention to him now.
10. It makes me want to revisit the city itself
I visited Rome back in 2011 and only spent a couple of days in the city – not nearly enough to acquaint myself with its amazing history and landmarks. I think my sightseeing was limited to the highlights of the city, and I missed out on some interesting and important things. For example, I would have loved to go on a tour underneath the Vatican and see its original ruins. I would have loved to see and explore more of the Colosseum because my time there was quite rushed. Watching Rome reminds me of exactly how much history that city has and how much more time you need to fully explore it, and reminds me of my intention to spend more time there.
Rome is such a great show and I haven’t even finished season one yet. I’m sad there’s only two seasons in total, but if this kind of quality is sustained throughout, then I won’t be too upset. Have you seen Rome? If not, you should!