At the end of the 15th Century, Rome is ruled ruthlessly by power mad and sex hungry Cesare Borgia, the eldest son of Pope Alexander VI. Following the advice of his chief adviser Niccolo ...
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A reedited version of Abel Gance's silent masterpiece 'Napoléon vu par Abel Gance', with sound effects added, dialogue post-dubbed, and with new scenes filmed with additional new cast ... See full summary »
A portrait of the bloody dynasty that spawned a pope, Alexander VI, as well as the role model for Machiavelli's "The Prince," his son Cesare Borgia, and a legend of femme duplicity, daughter Lucrezia Borgia.
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Gabriel de Gravone
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At the end of the 15th Century, Rome is ruled ruthlessly by power mad and sex hungry Cesare Borgia, the eldest son of Pope Alexander VI. Following the advice of his chief adviser Niccolo Macchiavelli, Cesare Borgia decides to attempt to unify the country in order to become even more powerful. To this end he needs his sister Lucrezia. Presently, the beautiful creature is married to the Count of Pesaro but she would be more useful if she was the wife of Alphonse of Aragon. Never mind, let the Count join his ancestors! And when the Duke of Aragon becomes useless, Cesare easily finds his replacement. Used as a pawn by her brother, Lucrezia eventually renounces happiness and becomes patron of the arts and the letters/Written by
A very good film, but only for a small and very select audience,...others will probably not be very impressed.
This is not a bad film, but for several reasons the average viewer might be either bored by the whole thing or put off by its surprising amount of nudity--an oddity for 1935 (and which resulting in its being banned in several countries when it was first released). As you can guess, it's not a great film for the kiddies since it's pretty explicit. However, it also is very hard to follow for someone not well-versed in late 15th century Italian history. While I am NOT an elitist snob, I could follow it pretty well since I am a history teacher and am pretty familiar with the Borgia family--definitely placing me in the minority!! As far as its value in telling about the awful Borgia family, the film is definitely a mixed bag. I've read books written by both anti-Borgia contemporaries AND pro-Borgias--and both give a very different slant on the family. But, a few things that both sides would agree on is that they were certainly NOT the Cleavers!!
The patriarch became Pope Alexander VI--no small feat as he had already produced three bastards that he publicly acknowledged!! His sexual prowess and greed for power is pretty much accepted fact by both sides.
His son Cesare, though DEFINITELY a conniving and power-hungry snake (even his FANS acknowledged this--Macchiavelli actually admired him for these personality traits!), seemed almost comical in how bad he was in the movie--claiming that he murdered and raped practically everyone in sight (including killing his brother and his sister's husbands--murdered, that is, not raped in these cases). All this COULD be true, but unfortunately, history doesn't really confirm these most salacious behaviors--but it sure makes for a sleazy and interesting movie!!! So, it might be a lot of exaggeration (and I am sure the way he raped every woman in sight like he did in the movie is a huge exaggeration--he probably would have died a lot sooner out of sheer exhaustion), but it makes for pretty compelling viewing!
As for Lucretia, the film actually takes a much more sympathetic view. Again, some contemporary historians described her as practically the bride of Satan while others painted her as an innocent woman stuck with two rather power-mad brothers and a terrible father. The movie chose to show her as a victim of evil Cesare--unaware that lover after lover were killed by him. The film also seemed to STRONGLY imply that this might have been the result of unrequited incestuous feelings by Cesare for his sister (yuck)! Pretty racy stuff,...along with the nude scenes of Lucretia!
Oddly, the film took a rather non-committal look at Alexander VI. In reality he was a vile and conniving pervert (who can deny this? It's fact according to every sane historian), he was shown as a very passive pawn of Cesare! Considering he became Pope and constantly grabbed for more and more gold and power during his reign, this isn't a very accurate portrayal.
Okay, the boring historical stuff aside, what we have is a sexually charged historical epic of questionable accuracy that is still fun to watch in a "DALLAS" or "GENERAL HOSPITAL" sort of way. Not exactly high art like director Gance's great epic NAPOLEON, but still pretty watchable.
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