Sunday, February 1, 2015
The BBC Made-for-TV Movie, "Colosseum: A Gladiator's Tale"
Today, I write to explore a bit more on the issue of gladiators in ancient Rome. The work I've selected to discuss is a "docu-drama" produced by the BBC as a broadcast television movie. The title is "Colosseum: A Gladiator's Story."
Much of what we know in the factual sense concerning the actual conduct of gladiatorial fights in the Colosseum comes from the account of the Roman poet, Martial, and his first-hand account of the fight between Verus and Priscus, held at the behest of Caesar Titus. The rest of what we know is anecdotal in nature, learned through archeological records or theoretical.
This docu-drama attempts to cover the life of Verus, a Balkan captive and slave, who rose from the rock quarries to become the most renown of gladiators. Of particular interest in this movie is it's depiction of a private gladiatorial fight held at the residence of an aristocrat, for the wealthy and important guests attending a private party. I've included the 4-minute excerpt concerning this fight as a video clip below, at the bottom of this entry.
Verus is made to fight another gladiator for the entertainment of the aristocrat and his guests. The guests include many Roman women, dressed in bloodthirsty red robes, as well as men. There is an exchange of attacks with swords and the incursion of mutual superficial wounds. In the end, Verus gets the best of his opponent, and the honored guest gives the thumbs down. Verus kills his opponent in front of all the aristocrats and their horny wives, and afterward, the guests all chant his name in honor of his win.
In particular, the fight is witnessed with great interest by the beautiful Imperial Lady, played by the stunning Tunisian actress, Dorra Zarrouk. Now 35, Dorra was just 23 at the time this film was made in 2003 (released in 2004). She is a former economist and fashion model, turned actress, whose acting career has now blossomed. In 2012, she was voted the most beautiful woman in Tunisia. Below are some pictures of the lovely Dorra Zarrouk.
Dorra's character plays an active role in searching out the gladiators for the fight at the private party. She joins Titus in traveling to the gladiator school to review candidates, wearing a perpetual smile on her pretty face. When the gladiators are joined to fight at the party, she is front and center, longingly staring at Verus as he is handed his weapon. In part, it is made clear that this fight to the death is for her entertainment, is her personally-made arrangement and has her explicit approval. In her own way, she wants Verus to know this and makes a show of it, before he is joined in combat.
During the fight, Dorra's character intensely watches the combat but shows no emotion. She smiles and applauds after Verus has killed his opponent and the guest of honor has raised Verus' hand in victory. The message conveyed is that the wealthy and powerful women of Rome were also sadists, who took lustful sexual pleasure in watching men kill each other. No doubt, the men of Rome exploited their women's built-up sexual excitement, once they got them back home.
There is a primal, natural connection between violence and sex. The Romans exploited this connection on a regular basis to make what was a mundane and difficult existence into something more substantial and palatable. Although society tries to repress this instinct in us, it no doubt lurks in our background and sometimes still comes out to play. As dark as it may be, it simply cannot be washed away from our nature.