In 2000 Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe resurrected the “sword and sandals” genre with the breathtaking Gladiator. Impeccably shot and well acted, Gladiator is the rare film where entertainment and thematic weight aren’t mutually exclusive. Which is not to say Gladiator is a cunningly subtle film, but it’s universal thematic thread- freedom from oppression-substantiates its grisly violence and scenes of politicking. For those who haven’t seen Gladiator, our hero is a vengeful Maximus (Russell Crowe), the victim of a corrupt political system. Specifically, disheartening murders by the Roman Empire uproot Maximus’ family tree. The wrongful termination of his loved ones has Maximus dreaming of a rendezvous in the afterlife. Maximus gets his wish in the image above, where he reunites with his deceased family. The simple act of his hand softly sifting through wheat is a soothing gesture. Its tender touch surely smooths out any callous brought on by hardened weaponry. It’s a visual motif found throughout the film, and is usually juxtaposed against images of violence and torched terrain. The blue tint also serves as a heavenly counterpoint to the film’s dusty, bloody, and hot environment. But the most poignant observation one can extract from this shot is the distance between Maximus and his son. Beyond the film’s examination of Maximus’ family memories, this is the closest Maximus has been to his son and his wife. It’s an emotionally overwhelming moment, where Maximus finds peace amidst Rome’s calamitous brutality and life in death.
Cinematographer: John Mathieson
Director: Ridley Scott