Scene of the Week: Gladiator - “My Name Is Maximus Decimus Meridius”
Another week and another scene, with this week’s Scene of the Week being one many people will be familiar with, the unmasking of a gladiator, who everyone thought had died, in the face of his attempted murderer. Gladiator, starring former actors of the week, Russell Crowe, as the Gladiator himself and Joaquin Phoenix as the evil roman emperor, Commodus, is, without a doubt, a modern great. This is a film which ticks all the boxes when it comes to movie making, with this scene being one of the highlights of this almost perfect picture.
Maximus, also known as The Gladiator was once the greatest general in Rome, serving a deserving emperor of Rome, Marcus Aurelius, until the emperor is murdered by his own son, Commodus. Commodus, jealous of Maximus and now next in line for the throne, orders for Maximus and his family to be killed. Maximus’ family is slaughtered, and he ends up being captured and sold to fight as a slave in the deathmatches known as the Roman Games, but due to Maximus’ background within the army, the games he fights in are not a true test of his ability, seeing him working up the games and inevitably fighting in the coliseums of Rome in front of the murderer of his family, Commodus, leading us to the scene I am reviewing today…
With Maximus fighting on the biggest stage of all, the Roman coliseums, and again winning with ease, he shows the crowd something they have never seen before and instantly becomes a favourite of theirs, persuading Commodus to greet the masked gladiator straight after a fight, in front of the crowd filling the mighty colosseum. As Commodus approaches The Gladiator, Maximus bows down, but not out of respect, but to grab a broken arrow head from the sand, in order to stab the roman emperor once he gets close enough, abling him to seek his revenge for his family. As Commodus gets closer, the villains innocent nephew jumps in front of him, eager to meet this new exciting Gladiator, in turn, taking the opportunity away from Maximus to get his revenge…
Now that Maximus’ window of opportunity had closed, he no longer wants to face the man responsible for ruining his life, so he turns his back on Commodus and walks away, which fuels rage within the roman emperor. “How dare you show your back to me! Slave, you will remove your helmet and tell me your name.” shouts Commodus, prompting The Gladiator to pause, building incredible tension between these characters. Maximus decides to confront Commodus in a way that has cemented itself in cinema history. He turns back round and faces the villain of this story, slowly removes his helmet revealing his face and that he is still alive. “My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions and loyal servant to the TRUE emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.” You will struggle to find a set of lines which carry so much emotional weight and delivered better than how Crowe delivers them in this film. Commodus’ face, as he is confronted by the man he tried to kill, is priceless, only confirming Phoenix’s’ talent as an actor.
What is genius about this scene is, due to Maximus winning the crowd over and Commodus being so obsessed with the people loving him as the emperor of rome, he is unable to execute the gladiator in front of everyone, or he will lose the love he is fighting to get and never get it back, almost making Maximus invincible.
With every great scene, there is usually a great score behind it, with this scene being no exception. Gladiator has, in my opinion, one of the greatest scores in film history, only confirming my love for the composer himself, Mr Hans Zimmer. Zimmer can really do no wrong, with the score for this film being some of his best work. The track played within this scene is called “Barbarian Horde”. It is one of the highlight tracks from this film score and well worth a listen. With the bombastic horns, and the breath-taking voice of Lisa Gerrard, it was always going to be great.
Ridley Scott has created a masterpiece when it comes to Gladiator. It is a film that has everything - incredible set pieces, amazing acting, compelling and tragic story, breathtaking action and an unforgettable score. There aren’t many characters with names as long as Maximus Decimus Meridius and when there are, not many people can remember them, but not where this film is concerned. No one is forgetting the name of the mighty Gladiator.