Gladiator Julius Mitchell ENG 225 Prof. Jonathan Beller 13 March 2011 What would you do if you were engaged in a twelve year campaign; you have a wife and son who are waiting for you, but you are asked to be king and leader of your country? Would you refuse your king, and turn your back on your country, for the sake of two? Ridley Scott, director of Universal Pictures “Gladiator,” brought to life, writer David Franzoni’s epic tale of Maximus, an inspiring and powerful Roman General.
After twelve years of fighting, Maximus longs for nothing more than the warm embrace of his family. Unfortunately, the king, Marcus Aurelius asked that he should be crowned king of Rome instead of his corrupt son Commodus. Maximus is caught in a power struggle, which leave him and his family condemned to death. This critical analysis of the motion picture “Gladiator,” will analyze the key elements of film, which embody the storytelling, acting, cinematography, editing, sound, style and directing, societal impact, genre, film criticism and analysis.
The story of Maximus, once the most powerful, and respected, general, in Rome, reduced to a slave who fights for an opportunity to exact his vengeance for the brutal death of his family is written with three basic elements. It has character, desire, and conflict. The narrative structure of the film is organized in six stages. These stages are developed by the turning points in the plot. The stages are the initial setup, new situation, progress, complications and higher stakes, final push, and aftermath. In opening scene of “Gladiator,” the initial setup reveals the day and life of Maximus; it identifies him as powerful and likable.
Evidence of this is seen in the first scene in Germania at the beginning of the battle against the barbarian tribes. Maximus walks by his men who are going to fight for their lives in the name of Rome as a Commander would when inspecting his troops for battle. As he walks by, they address him as “general” while taking a knee. Some of his men smile as he passes by illustrating that he is well liked, and respected. Maximus’ power is revealed as he rides first to lead his men into battle; he rally’s his men and raises their spirits to fight.
The second stage or the new situation occurs when the dying king asks Maximus to take his place as king of Rome. This is the first turning point in the structure of the narrative. The purpose of this turning point is to create and opportunity, which the lead character will have to react to. This can be a good or bad thing for the lead character. For Maximus, this was unfortunate, because instead of dancing in excitement, he faces conflict, and placed against obstacles far greater than he had ever seen. Actor, Joaquin Phoenix, plays the king’s son Commodus, the antagonist.
Commodus is so eager for power that he kills his father and assumes the title of King. Now, he demands that Maximus should swear his allegiance to him, the new Caesar. Maximus’ refusal to serve Commodus, sentences himself, his wife and children to death. He now has to get acclimated to his new situation and environment. In doing so, he is saved by a slave trader and finds himself sold as a gladiator. This brings us to the third phase of the story, progress. At this point Maximus must decide what his goal is and commit to it fully.
He is determined to win the crowd and use Commodus strength as his weakness in order to seek revenge against him. Evidence of this is seen when Oliver Reed, the actor who played Proximo reveals to Maximus how his freedom was won. In the next stage of the narration, Maximus must become Rome’s champion. He fight s many battles and adds insult to injury by refusing to remove his mask when he was addressing Commodus. During this stage, Maximus’ goal becomes much harder to achieve, because if he fails the lives of Lucilla, actor, Connie Nielsen’s character, and Lucius, who is played by actor Spencer Treat Clark, would be taken.
Maximus also experiences setback during this stage of the narrative. Evidence of this occurs when Commodus threatens his sister to reveal the plot against him. She reveals the plan to spare her sons life. As a result, Proximo is killed, along with several other slaves. During the final push stage, all seems lost for Maximus because every plan he had is crumbling around him. There is nothing left to do but accept his fate in the arena. However, another opportunity is present to Maximus by Commodus when he wounds Maximus and attempts to fight him in the arena.
Commodus has been the biggest obstacle for Maximus during the entire narrative, but his foolish gesture of show-boating left him dead at the hands of Maximus. The final stage of the narrative structure occurs with Commodurs death and Maximus is reunited with his family in death. The plot of the film took place in chronological order. The film was shot wonderfully in sequence, which was logical and easy to follow from beginning to the end. During the beginning of the film, King, Marcus Aurelius spoke metaphorically as he talked to Lucilla.
He was telling her in so many words that she will be needed ot comfort her brother because he will be disappointed that Maximus will be chosen as king. Allegory is use in the film to make the point that winning the crowd in the Arena will win a man his freedom. The sword which Proximo had was a symbol of his freedom. This film is such a great piece of art. It keeps the audience glued to the television. The switching back and forth between Maximus and the changing weather scenes is symbolic of life and death. It is ironic how the man, who was thought dead, sprung up among the living and conquered a king as a slave.
This film allows the audience to relate to the character. In side of every boy and girl is a yearning for a hero. Hero’s live through challenges and triumphs over seemingly impossible odds. This gives the audience hope that they can also conquer over their many trials which plague the day and night. The primary actors in the film are Connie Nielsen who plays the role of Lucilla, Joaquin Phoenix as Commodus, and Russell Crow as Maximus. In the film “Gladiator,” Russell Crow, is a wild card actor. He has acted in so many different roles superbly, but in this film, he uses his personality to efine his role as a actor. His performance is superb. Russell Crow embraces the role with vivaciousness and brings energy to the screen. His counterpart, Joaquin Phoenix’s role was underplayed and discredited the character. Most of the scenes that is expected of him to shine and bring intensity to the film is dulled by his inability to illustrate the emotions that are expected of his character. After seeing him in a few films, it is apparent that his ability to perform in multiple roles is apparent. However, he does fit the characteristics of an interpretive actor.
Connie Nielsen on the other hand, has not been seen in many movies. It is difficult to determine what type of actor she represents. However, from this film, Connie Nielsen is easily characterized as a star base on her outstanding performance. He r she easily play the role of a woman who was forced to be hard on the outside; a true survivor. The style of acting that the actors used in the film was based on film acting. Unlike the broad-way stage actors, the actors poured their emotions into the camera intensely. Every stroke of the blade is felt by the audience from the look of pain, which was written on the actors faces.
Evidence of this is seen, when Maximus reaches up to touch the feet of his wife, who had been raped, burned alive, and hung. The overwhelming emotions he displayed with the echoing of anger, betrayal, and revenge, rips through the film, and sends an all too real chill down the audience’s spine. The actors in Gladiator really amerced themselves into the characters they played. It was as if they were telling their own life story. The story of Maximus is a story that aims to inspire people to become more that who or what they are. Its meaning is conveyed through emotional the struggle’s each character faces as the story unfolds.
Each character in this movie is plagued with something that bothers them deeply. For Maximus, the loss of a father, a wife, son, being sold into slavery from being the Commanding General of a legion , is a devastating blow to Maximus, however he is able to conquer his shortcomings and rise above his oppressor. After reviewing the movie “Gladiator,” it is easy to see that about thirty percent of the movie can be credited the actors but the rest is of the movie should be credited to the cinematographer and the editors of the film. The placement of the actors is important in order to understand the character.
In the beginning of the film, the character Marcus Aurelius, is seen standing at the top of the hill watching the entire battle. He is placed on the top of the hill to illustrate his power. Another time that editor shows Marcus Aurelius’ character as powerful ruler as was in the scene after Commodus and Lucilla had arrived. Commodus was so eager to receive his father’s blessing that he immediately rode out to the front lines. To his disappointment, the king refuses to walk along with Commodus. Instead, he favors Maximus. Lucilla’s character is placed in the shadows for most parts of the movie.
She only steps out into the light once her brother is slain. Her character illustrates to the audience that there are times when people have to know their place and accept it. If she had been born a boy, she would been crowned the king, but since she is a woman, she is forced to be sister to the King. Her character is view-sneaking arounding plotting against her brother because she feared for her son’s life. The actors’ placement helps the viewer’s understand the characters more because it allows the viewers to see those non-verbal things that people. It gives insight into the personality of the actors.
The mise en scene in the movie helps to magnify the intensity of the film. The Cinematographer literally filmed this movie, frame by frame, as if he was painting on a canvas. The first stroke of the film is is captured at the beginning of the film. The movie opens with a medium shot of Maximus’s hands grazing the top for grain as the hour just before the sun sets. It slowly fades into a cut of the king standing on the top of the hill overlooking his army below. The lighting and the use of color in the first take is brilliant. The cinematographer captures the sunlight perfectly as this hits the crass from a right angel and pans around Maximus.
One noticeable omission from this scene is the entire body of Maximus. The director really used every resource that was available to him to capture the next scene. The battle against the barbarian’s epic. The directory used the coverage techniques to capture multiple areas of the battlefield and used deep focuses on the slashing and the battle cries of the wounded. The cinematographer keeps the shot at a medium focus and slows the pace of the film. He does this while overlapping shot that fade in an out. Frame by frame, this style of filming intensifies the events that are occurring.
The use of low-key lighting is used to illustrate the darkness of war. Most battles occur just before or after dawn, so the lighting was crucial towards creating that effect. The entire movie is filmed with a variety of techniques. The wide-angle lens is used to create a wide screen like affect. The director to show that the actor is lost in the moment uses the stop motion effect. In the arena, for the first time, Maximus is hailed as the Spaniard after his victory. Stunned by the roar of the crowd, the director uses the stop-motion animation technique and the 180 degrees panning technique to capture Maximus amazement.
Some of the film is shot subjectively. The film was shot from the eyes of the men who fought along the side of Maximus. In addition, the eye-line technique is used the Lucilla and Maximus expressed their love for each other in the cells below the palace with a kiss. The cinematography of the film was brilliant but it is nothing without the editor to put the pieces together. The director’s cuts from the movie showed many parts of the film that was cut off because it was too long, or didn’t show what the audience needed to see. The editor of the film used incongruous editing in the film.
At first, it seemed as if the film was progressing in sequential order, but it jumped from place to place. The shots and scenes are arranged in order based on the movie storyboard. It is intended to show a person who is favored by the “gods” and who is some-what untouchable. For example, there is a scene in Gladiator where Russell Crow’s character, begins to realize his ability to win the crown from the sands of the arena. He stood alone surrounded by 5 men, twice his size. Fearless, ferocious and precise with every strike he defeats them with ease, style, and stands alone in the arena. The coliseum is silenced by the presence of Maximus.
He throws his sword and yells, “Are you not entertained? ” Suddenly, the crowd roars to for their champion at the top of their lungs. The editor ensured that he knitted the film together in collaboration with the director to maintain the director’s vision. However, this film might as well have been a Charlie Chaplin’s film if it was not for the music director. The generous that orchestrated the sound of the films created a masterpiece that cannot be replicated to fit any other production. The film director in collaboration with the musical director expertly used all elements of sound to bring the film alive.
In the beginning of the film, there is a sound of sweet serenade, so soothing it cracks the sky and introduces the light of day on the horizon. Maximus’s characters entire body is not seen except for his hand as it grazes the top of the grains that are grown in the wide-open field. It is interesting that the score of the entire film is the same. It is used with softer tones during the more emotional events and picks up the pace and amplified during the fighting scenes. This would have been a great movie without the dialogue, the movies great with it. The dialogue allows the audience to experience the things that the characters struggled.
It reveals to the audience the secret struggles that Lucilla faced and how she truly felt about Maximus. During Lucilla’s visit to Maximus before he attempted his escape, she expressed he love for Maximus and they reveal to the audience that they had some emotional connection a long time ago. Due to her position as princess, she could not be with him. The sound effects of the horses riding hard and charging into battle gave way to the clashing of swords during the battle in the first part of the movie. Maximus throws his sword and cuts one of the barbarians head off his shoulder.
To show how much attention to detail was placed in this film, the audience can hear the sound of the sword wobbling as it sticks into the tree. During the making of the film, the musical director of the films interview showed that he did some post-dubbing and stereophonic sounds and synchronized sounds to help enhance the film. Enhancing the film by fine-tuning the edges of the film is definitely a trademark of a director who is passionate about his work. The style of this director is not noticeably present in this film. However, the director’s technical competence is seen and felt throughout the film.
He embodies an Auteur. From start to finish this film keeps the blood pump with excitement in anticipation of the events as they unfold before the film. The movie Gladiator is a film that talks about the primal stage of society. It reflects modern day mixed martial arts fighters, wrestlers, and boxers. The only difference is that these people in the twentieth century do not kill each other for sport. They fight with respect and honor for their opponent as the Gladiators did during the time of Maximus. The genre that this film falls into is the dramatic action. It has a subgenre in romance.
The iconography that is used in this film signifies that this film was going to be action packed from conception. This is truly a magnificent film. This critical analysis of the motion picture “Gladiator,” analyzed the key elements of film, which embodied the storytelling, acting, cinematography, editing, sound, style and directing, societal impact, genre, and film criticism. This film deserves two thumbs up for the superb performance of the actors throughout the movie. Russell Crowe truly made a name for himself as a force to reckon with in the acting arena. The cinematography was brilliant.
Every shot told a story which was pieced together masterfully by the editor. The sound director and his orchestra creations of manmade sounds to enhance the sound effects, and bring emotions to the film held the audience prisoner to their seats. With every stroke of the sword and the sound of blood splatter ing against the wind, walls, and sands of the arena the audiences heart pumped rapidly begging for more. Gladiator was definitely a timeless piece of art. Reference Bill, G. , Christopher, J. , Film: From Watching to Seeing, 2011, Bridgepoint Education Inc. DreamWorks SKG, Gladiator, 2000