In honour of Kirk Douglas’ milestone 100th birthday, I thought it only fitting to write about one of his most revered and well-known films, “Spartacus”. Directed by the legendary Stanley Kubrick and winning four Academy Awards, this historical and epic film tells the story of a slave named Spartacus. Having grown up in slavery, he detests all that slavery involves and stands for, and is determined to not bequeath to the desires and needs of his owners. When chosen to become a gladiator, he rebelled against authority and later developed an army composed of slaves to defy the subserviency and grandiosity of the Roman Empire. His greatest nemesis throughout this journey was Crassus, played by the stellar Sir Laurence Olivier. He demanded to maintain slavery, carrying out this despicable goal as an elite Roman senator. This tug of war remains central throughout the film, ending on a tragic note as do many epic tales.
This film also has a great deal of heart. There are two central characters who expose Spartacus’ naturally human need for love and acceptance behind his tough exterior, and who are also all too familiar with the life of slavery. Varinia, played very tenderly by Jean Simmons, initially meets Spartacus while hired as a prostitute for the gladiators. They grow to become soul mates, after she escapes from the clutches of Crassus. Antoninus, played innocently and eagerly by Tony Curtis, also escapes from the same tyrannical owner as Varinia and becomes best friends with and advisor to Spartacus. As well, a true community develops among the brave soldiers who fight against slavery. They have a great deal of respect and admiration for one another, and prove that large masses of individuals have the impetus to bring a great deal of attention to and to create social justice.
This film identifies many universal truths – greed, human rights, community, and the atrocities of dictatorship to name a few. The discrepancy and inequality between social classes are highlighted through set design, costumes, and the conviction of all involved in the creation of this film. I would be remiss if I did not mention the lead actor of the film. Kirk Douglas carries the story extremely well and is very devoted to the role, whereby his passion in eliminating slavery is a symbol of bravery and honesty. Spartacus’ memory will be forever emblazoned in history for his efforts, and this portrayal will continue to be identified as one of Douglas’ most important and celebrated roles.
I do not own the above image.