Cinerama: The fall of the Roman Empire

Posted: September 11, 2009 in Cinerama

The fall of the Roman Empire

By Mike Derderian

As the legions marched towards the ravaged city, howls of terror from beyond the burning hills were being heard. “Hark,” said the man “they proceed in spite of everything,” as his woman companion franticly held fast to her weeping child. The child’s tears and cries were lost in the echoes of pain and the hissing sound of the oozing blood.

A cold gust of wind carried thistledown tarnished with blood away into the smoke hazed sky. As it soared away leaving behind all the cadavers, they came in touch with. The bustling sound of a horn announced the end of everything. Alas, sweet Babylonia has fallen.

The man looked in sorrow and as he held his wife’s hand, a tear slid down unto his cheek, liquefying the coagulating blood of the iron-inflected wound, it reached his lips. Mixed with the saltiness of his tears, the blood being shed for his land never tasted sweeter.

“Shamiram,” the man called his grief stricken wife, “Its not lost yet.” So carrying his child and reaching out to her they held each other by the shoulder and began to walk towards the sun-blooded horizon, a horizon that soon engulfed their figures.

As the sun begun to head for its deathbed allowing darkness to fall, The center of Babylonia begun to crowd with people, who stood gazing at the encircled palace. Safely guarded by the conquering army, induction ceremonies for the new ruler were taking place there.

In one of its halls that survived ransacking, full of vanity, the usurper approached the blood-drenched throne. He sat on the chair and cried out, “Vini, vidi, vici; I came, I saw, I conquered.”  In response his thrilled subjects cried in return words that will soon turn hollow, “Ave Caesar, hail Caesar.”

Suddenly out of nowhere a thundering voice echoed in the hall saying; “Vae Victus, vae victis.” Trembling with fear the so called conquer hastily ascended the steps of the balcony to see the source of the voice. Boom, bam, crush stepping on the tip of his red royal taffeta mantle, the man of war tripped and so I woke.

If you reached this far in reading I congratulate you for surviving the “your-time-consuming-overture” for a column, any way I believe I should start talking about the film before this turns into a Latinarama corner.

“The Fall of the Roman Empire,” is a 1964 production that narrates in a Hollywood manner how one of the greatest empires began to ascend into turmoil and eventually disappeared into the pages of time

According to this motion picture directed by Anthony Mann, jealousy, love and absolute power were part of the causes that hastened a process that is usually accompanied by the eroding factor of time and man’s stupidity.

Ok, you can exclude love for I haven’t seen any empire fall from the lack or abundance of love— but we have seen empires crumble out of greed, haven’t we? Either for money, land or oil, in the end the concept of not taking other people’s land was and will never be applied.

Three-hours plus eight minuets of your basic classic cinematography, big sets with colossal Roman style buildings and fine acting by actors like Alec Guinness, James Mason, Christopher Plummer, Stephan Boyd and Italian diva Sophia Lauren are all part of this good flick.

If a copy of this film is unavailable, unfortunately, like some of the classic films that I choose as a topic for Rama then the best replacement for this one is by renting Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator,” which will give you the more general idea of the original one.

Both films share the same plot and personalities, except for the name of the main character. In the one we are discussing Stephan Boyd plays the role of Livius, the betrayed military general, as for the one in gladiator it was named Maximus played by the currently hot film commodity Russell Crowe.

I’ll have to say that Gladiator’s plot might appeal to the younger generation, especially the action bloody fight scenes. On contrary “The Fall of the Roman Empire,” has less bloody scenes yet it well entertain till the end.

The acting element in this film is untouchable for we have two prolific colorful British actors one is the suave James Mason, while the other is the more uptight stone cold Sir Alec Guiness, whom my younger readers would remember for having said, “may the force be with you,” in the Star Wars trilogy.

You’ll hate Christopher Plummer’s portrayal of Commodus, not because he was bad in acting but because he was perfect. And believe me, you will really hate him, and hate or love of a performance is the best way to measure how good an actor is.

Forgetting Sophia would be a sin for despite of her being limited in portraying Lucilla reflected how a woman could have both apathy and passion at the same time in her heart, the Italian actress can simply add charm to any film being in it.

In the end bringing down an empire is much easier than building one, just like a beautiful mind that grows into utter brilliance, a process that needs tens of years, however, through ignorance it takes a split of second to sever it off ending all prospects of reaching perfection.

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