Posts Tagged ‘Barca’

Spartacus: Blood and Sand/ God of the Arena – the violent aesthetic perfectly poured onto our TV sets!!


This is television at its best, this is being allowed to view what would normally be made for the big screen and giving us the ultimate visual experience. Spartacus is a true television spectacle not only for its aesthetics and use of modern filming techniques but also because it’s brave enough to go where so many shows don’t. It treats its audience like the adults we are not backing down and pandering to ratings, its brilliant and brutal, beautiful and excessive, not playing safe but exploiting our thirst for aesthetic violence and adult sensuality. No this is not TV for those under 18 it deserves it certificate and it makes sure it rewards its audience with all visuals we could ever want. As you can tell I loved this series, I have always been a fan of the violent aesthetic; I appreciate the line between brutality and beauty and love the use of a harsher sensuality, of glorifying the powerful beast that is man’s desire. Spartacus is a first on television for using techniques normally used for big screen adaptation of comic books, it has a unique style using the cg created world and populating it with some very well defined and imposing characters. This series is a must for fans of films such as 300, both visually and narratively.

The plot for Blood and Sand follows the rise of Spartacus through his imprisonment as a slave and gladiator. As he grows to become champion and wins the hearts of the people while searching for his wife and seeking revenge against those that put him into this life of servitude. Into this world are thrown the other gladiators he must train with and fight, his new master and his wife and those drawn into the web of lie’s and deceit as a clash between and search for vengeance and the greed for power becomes more entangled. All characters are very well fleshed out with equal opportunity for growth and development and you share a great deal of interesting and intense journeys. But be warned not to get to attached to anyone this series has a high death toll and no character is safe for the brutality and the dangers of the world they live in. Spartacus has to rise to fame through battles of the heart, mind and body being manipulated by the Lanista Batiatus, who will go to any length to gain fame, fortune and status, along with his equally cunning and seductive wife Lucrecia. Thrown in this mix of gladiators such as Crixsus (the current champion of the arena) are plots of betrayal and mistrust, of rivalry and hate. But also of love and companionship, of relationships between men that stand as brothers, lovers, husbands, warriors, slaves and friends. Everything about this series is steeped in blood and sacrifice the pure harshness of their lives and the burden of position in this society. The driving force of this show is one man rising up through blood and carnage to make a better place, to become the Spartacus we know of from legend the man that freed slaves and caused Rome to tremble.

God of the Arena came about because the actor who plays Spartacus himself was diagnosed with cancer so to give him time to recover they made a mini-series prequel. This prequel is every bit if not more violent and sensational in its depiction of sex and brutality. The mini-series features the bloody history of the House of Batiatus and the city of Capua before the arrival of Spartacus. Quintus Lentulus Batiatus becomes a Lanista (manager) when he takes over his father’s ludus of gladiators. He has ambitions of stepping out of his father’s shadow by seeking recognition for his own name and achieving greatness for his house. By his side stands his beautiful wife Lucrecia who will help her husband achieve his goal no matter what the cost. Batiatus puts all his fortunes on the man who will gain him fame and glory, his best gladiator, the Celt, Genius; a skilled warrior who wields his swords in the arena as if it were his last day alive. However, there are those who oppose Batiatus and his future champion(s) of Capua, plotting against him only to fail. Purchased as an undisciplined and dishevelled recruit in the first episode, the Gaul Crixsus endures mockery and threats of death to become the greatest gladiator in the house after Gannicus. As Batiatus fends off repeated attempts by his professional rival Tullius to obtain Gannicus, his relationships with his father Titus and friend Solonius begin to suffer the strain of Quintus’ relentless ambition. Former champion gladiator Oenomaus reluctantly retires from combat to become Doctore, while Syrian recruits Ashur and Dagan become fierce enemies as Ashur tries to prove himself worthy of being a gladiator. Veteran gladiators Barca and Gannicus accept the rising star of Crixsus but fear that their own careers will suffer, as the machinations of Batiatus and Lucrecia to court Capua’s elite end in tragedy for several members of the household. Against all of this, the city’s splendid new arena nears completion and with it the opening games that will make men into gods.

Both series are amazing in their visual style and use of colours, everything from the colours in the sky that reflect the emotional turmoil of the characters and pre warnings of doom and blood shed to the tones of the land to shown this harsh and unforgiving land. The sets are amazing while much is rendered, the Ludus is very much a real and gritty place nothing is beautiful and safe in the walls that imprison these ferocious men. The home of Batiatus looks like it is beautiful and with the glorification of base pleasures and the enticing luxury of desire you may think this looks like a beautiful home if not for the amount of blood that needs to washes away from its floors each day. The characters always speak with purpose there are no pointless and uninteresting dialogues every word said has meaning and impact. The music is perfect mixing great orchestral choirs and orchestras to fan fair our battles in the arena as well as give more depth to scenes of a much more gentle nature. The costumes are beautiful, fully depicting the fashion of this period of time; in fact the Misc-en-scen is very well done truly given both the upper class richness of Rome as well as the squalor and depravity of lower roman classes. The whole series works dualities with magical precision. Gladiator may be brutal and violent in the arena but also can be full of love, compassion and tenderness outside. A good and very brave example of this is in Barca, The Beast of Carthage. He is one of the top gladiators and as you guessed from his name he is fierce, deadly and not one to mess with but he is also a man that greatly loves and is in fact gay. He has a beautiful and tender relationship with his younger lover and their story is touching and gently in so much contradiction to the man that stands in the arena with so much blood on his hands. I respect any series that shows a gay relationship that isn’t about coming out or just a walking gay cliché, to show love between 2 men standing as equals in the world is a far rarer thing on TV, so much respect to Starz for backing this series and this particular plot.

All in all this series is just great entertainment with more complications than some soaps, amazingly well fleshed out characters, beautiful settings and visuals, great scoring and acting it has everything. It shows us all kinds of desires and sensualities, lets us indulge in the glorification of the flesh and exhilarating rush of violence. The battles are wonderfully played out with both skill and ample blood letting, you are at the edge of your seat awaiting their outcomes. Yet it also keeps you well aware how dangerous such pleasurable and corruptible pursuits can be and that beauty may be only skin deep and perfection can cut all the way to the bone.

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