by Hossein Aghababa
“Gladiator”: a lecture-note in politics
The movie is about a Roman commander named Maximus (Russell Crowe) whose loyalty to the emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris) and empire has been proved. In particular, having defeated barbarians, Maximus finds an unprecedented stature in the heart of Marcus Aurelius. This is coincident with the arrival of emperor’s son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) who has evaded the war and entered a safe battle-field to congratulate his father. However, he encounters with an atmosphere where his father is proud of his general and the son does not receive the same attention from his father. Commodus becomes jealous of Maximus and finds him as a potential rival for being the heir of the empire. After Commodus kills the empire and murders the family of the captured general, the ex-soldier returns to Rome as a slave.
Maximus is among a group of slaves who have to kill to survive. His charisma as well as familiarity with military tactics has made him the leader of slaves. On the other hand, the personality of Proximo (Oliver Reed) whose business is arranging bloody games has been so nicely designed in this movie. Although Proximo is a person who is the merchant of fighter slaves, he is committed to personal moral rules. He is loyal to his men and philosophically whispers with himself: “we mortals are but shadows and dust.” The movie is of epic type with numerous well-designed fighting scenes. Technically, at some scenes of the movie, the film is Americanized in an unnatural manner. For instance, the body-to-body fight between Maximus and Commodus at the end is like a “Clay versus Foreman” battle. However, the whole movie was one of the best performances of Russell Crowe. Maximus’ character is so admirable in that he is man of country and home at the same time and Crowe acceptably acted this role.
Semantically, the concept “Dream” should be discussed whether it has something to do with Europe in the era of Roman Empire. It seems that “Dream” as a concept, emanates from American political philosophy. So the line “Marcus Aurelius had a dream that was Rome” seems to have originated from an American mind. In general, the answer to this question that how much a director has freedom to impose American clichés to a non-American story is a serious problem.
The fact that Commodus as the empire is not able to overcome his passion to defeat a slave in front of the eyes of people is a key point in this movie. It’s like a great lesson that a political leader should keep his dignity by not getting involved with anyone he finds as a rival. It usually happens for leaders who have not paid enough for their leadership. They don’t understand how hard the throne of kingdom has been secured. They need to prove themselves from any aspect to their people. If Commodus had not this power, his mischievous essence was never revealed to the public. His behavior reminds us the word of Elbert Hubbard on power that “nothing unmasks a man like his use of power.” Commodus is a blind leader who is not aware of the eyes of his men and people. Eventually, the court of public opinions silently votes to dethrone the king. The commander in chief of the Coliseum shouted “Sheath your swords” when the king requested for a sword. Even the common knows that a beaten ulcerous king does not deserve to rule them. Not a single man fanatically shouts in support of lonely king. Finally, the body of the king is on the ground like a slave and the body of the slave is on the hands of his disciples like a king.