I want you to write in and tell me what classical story you would like to see on the big screen. Put a comment on this blog, or place something on Facebook on the Ancient Rome Refocused Group site. You don’t have to write a movie treatment, just give me a subject and why.
Let’s say you have an unlimited budget, and the green light to produce a film for the newly formed production company called Alexandria Lighthouse.
The budget has been green-lighted. All you have to do is submit a final treatment. I have some favorite subjects in classical antiquity that would make great subjects for film, it just seems that current producers can’t think anything past Cleopatra or Troy for a classical subject for film. (Note* Another big screen production is due out soon with Angelina Jolie).
A recent article in The New York Times settled what subject I would do.
“I would love to play (Cincinnatus) in a film about ancient Rome,” Schwarzenegger told The Times. “He was given the keys to the kingdom — pure, absolute power! — and he did the job and then went back to his farm. He didn’t get drunk on the power. He did the job he was asked to do, dealt with the invasion and walked away. That is the purest form of public service I can imagine, and it would be fun to try to capture that character on film.”
Here’s my attempt at a movie treatment.
Working Title: Sixteen Days / XVI Days
By Rob Cain at email@example.com
LOGLINE: A retired general, now a farmer, leaves the harvest to defend his country from invasion. He is given unlimited power, and generals an army to defeat an invading enemy. The senators of Rome eventually fear him, and plot to overthrow him thinking that no man gives up power when it is handed to him. To their surprize he lays down the power of dictatorship, and returns to the harvest.
Introduction to key figures:
Cincinnatus — Old but still vital. Obsessed with the harvest. He is very particular. He will have nothing to do with fools, and commands the plow as equally as hard as he commands an army. He believes that Jupiter talks to him personally. He holds conversations with him while behind the plow.
Racilia — (wife of Cincinnatus) Is in charge of the house. A carbon copy of Cincinnatus in how she runs the slaves and their duties. Demands that her husband keep one oath to her and one oath only: “Stay alive in battle, and save your death for our bed.”
CAESO — (son of Cincinnatus) A farmer too, but once a politician. He is barely surviving on the lands he was left when he was forced to sell everything to pay a fine levied on him by the Senate. He did the unforgivable, and tried to seek safety with the Etruscans. The Romans condemned him to death, but only survived by the vast amount of money Cincinnatus paid to save his only son’s life. Caeso will find himself enlisted into the fight that is too come. He does not want to go, but he will go and discover his salvation, and pay a penalty for ambition.
Fathus – (A slave) Follows Cincinnatus into battle. He is always on his right side. He is nothing more than a slave but acts noble in the face of danger. At one point he even takes a slinger pellet for his master and survives. Cincinnatus says that he is the only man more serious than himself.
Aldous Livius — (Centurion) He is the primus centurion of the legio. He is eagle-eyed, sharp-nosed, and reminds one of a hawk that walks. He seems to be able to read Cincinnatus’s mind, and more than once points out things on the battlefield that the general is too old to see clearly. He is loyal, and hard…and can step into a room without a sound to the dismay of conspirators and those jealous of Cincinnnatus’s power.
Act 1 (The Setup).
Title: Day I
Cincinnatus is retired. He is farming his land, happy and contented except for a bull that is subborn and ornery. The old man talks to Jupiter as he plows the earth, asking constantly for rain.
“Jupiter, we need rain. I mean give me enough to get a good harvest in. Maybe, enough to make the grapes good and plump. Is that too much to ask? Look at me, I am getting old. Great Jupiter, have pity on this old man….”
It seems from the dialogue that Jupiter answers him. They have a conversation back and forth. It is then something odd happens. Jupiter warns him (in his head) to look over his left shoulder. “What do you mean, look behind you?” He stops the bull and sees three silhouettes in the sun.
“Trouble comes in threes,” he says. The men are senators sent from Rome. Three senators have come from Rome. He knows them. As they approach he looks to see if they are armed. They greet him warmly. There is war, an enemy has come down from the mountains and they want him to lead an army against the invader. Cincinnatus argues that he is old, but they shake their heads. He has been declared dictator in Rome.
“Save the Republic!” They beg.
“Is that all?” Cincinnatus thinks.
Virgil Brutius is the lead senator. He begs that Cincinnatus accept the position as dictator. Cincinnatus is suspicious. He compares his while bull to Rome itself. He explains that Rome snaps and bellows and you flick his reins to go the right direction, and never does the bull nor Rome like the man that holds the reins. Cincinnatus explains that he knows that this bull would gore him if given half the chance and Rome would do the same. Brutius won’t take no for an answer. “That is why the dicator is given the reins in the first place.”
He goes and tells his wife. She does not want him to go. A woman alone on a vast estate is open to vagabonds and thieves. She needs him home. She reminds him that he is almost blind. He reminds her that a legio had many eyes and he will be more than looked after. She demands that they hire slaves to protect the estate. She picks them out like she is building an army, and he knows why he married her.
He visits his son who greets him filthy from the toil in the field. Caeso is tired, and resentful that he has to work like this, but when he finds out that his father has been made dictator, he rejoices. Caeso is imagining the terror he can reek upon his enemies. Cincinnatus tells his son that he must join him in the field. He will give him a commission and will teach him how to fight. Caeso does not want to go, but relents — and imagines his revenge on those that banished him from Rome.
Title: Day II
Fathus, the slave, prepares his masters kit for the field. He is sad, and Cincinnatus asks him what is wrong. Fathus pleads that the old master take him with him. Fathus fears for his masters life. “You need me,” he states. Cincinnatus tells him of the hardships of the field, and the slave smirks. “Shall I tell you the hardships of being a slave?”
Cincinnatus does not relent. “You need to stay here. For the mistress.” The slave says the mistress does not need him…”but you do.”
Title: Day IV
The day of departure comes. Caeso is in armor and looks sullen. Racilia looks sad, but is surrounded by slaves (her personal army). Fathus has been crying and holds a kit filled with everything he needs, including a balm for the old man’s aching muscles. Cincinnatus says his goodbyes to his wife. He says his goodbyes to Falthus who still begs to accompany him on the journey. He then says goodbye to the white bull. The final scene is that he looks up at the sky where Jupiter resides: “I won’t say goodbye to you, Jupiter. Because I know that you will accompany me just so that you can have a good laugh.” He starts to walk away with his son following. “Father?” Caeso asks. “Should we not depart through the olive grove?” Cincinnatus squints. “Yes, of course…” he says trying not to look embarrased. “Let us say goodbye to the olive grove as well.”
Act 2 (The Conflict)
Title: Day VII
He enters Rome. Everyone is in the streets cheering him. He marches with his son who watches in wonder the mad exhuberance that masses around his father. “Save us!” The crowed shouts. Cincinnatus and his father are led into a brilliant tent laden with silks and couches. It is a field tent made for Alexander the Great himself. Caeso is elated and immediately strips his armor so that he can take a bath. Cincinnatus says, “Get rid of it.” “It is like a plow,” he explains. Army life you must get used to it. A plow eventually fits your hands, so does Army living..”
They go to see the Army. It is composed of only a few hundred men. Cincinnitus orders that every man in Rome be conscripted. There is protest, but the old man’s voice fills the tent. “NOW!” The next day there are five legions standing in the field. Closeups reveal sullen faced men looking miserable. There are flashbacks of men being conscripted off the streets and dragged from their beds.
“The men are complaining,” Caeso tells his father.
“That is what soldiers do,” says Cincinnatus.
Title: Day VIII
The next day is training. The men go on a march up a mountain. Halfway up to the top they take a rest. “How far?” a lowley soldier asks not relising Cincinnatus is standing right behind him. “To the top so that we can talk to Jupiter.” Cincinnatus answers. They reach the top. As the men celebrate, Cincinnatius tells his officers, “Now we go down.” The same man shouts: “How far?” The old general shouts: ” Until we see Pluto himself.” The soldier says under his breath: “I believe we are generaled by sysyphus himself.” Cincinnatus hears that as well.
When they make it to the bottom, the army is turned around to walk back up. However this time, they push boulders up the mountain like the legendary mortal who spent an eternity pushing a rock up and down a hill in Hades.
The next day a centurion is presented to Cincinnatus. He is introduced as Aldous Livius. “You come now?” the general asks.
The Centurion answers, “I was out tending my farm. I just heard the call and came as soon as I could.”
Why should we take you now?” Cincinnatus asks.
Livius explains that he can see so clearly in the distance that, “I can see problems coming before they even happen.” The room of officers laugh.
Cincinnatus says: “I’ll take him.”
Title: Day X, XI, XII
Scenes of practice sword fights. Scenes of carrying packs. Scenes of running of formations practiced over and over. Every moment Aldous Livius is by the general’s side pointing things out to him.
Caeso’s fortunes have changed. He is now a cavalry commander in his father’s army, no longer a dirty farmer trying to ‘ekk’ out a living from the soil. At night he seeks out those that hurt him in the Senate and throws one down a well, one is beaten up late at night in an alley, and one is robbed in ‘broad day-light’ under the guise of paying taxes. He employs soldiers under him to carry out his rein of terror. There is a scene of a secret meeting where Senators that were instrumental in his banishment are run down by horses in a small causeway.
The terror ends when the Roman Army marches out of the city to meet the enemy. Virgil Brutius watches the general’s son ride out of the city. His companion says: “How can someone like Cincinnatus, so unambitious, so willing to serve the state with recompense, have a bloated viper for a son?”
Brutius responds: “Something worries me more.”
“What is that?”
“That someday we shall put someone like Caeso, a man with such unlimited appetite for power, and such limited abilities into the seat of dictator. Someone like him would kill off the Senate and spend the treasury dry. He would even declare a horse senator of Rome if he thought it would help him.”
This companion laughs. “It shall never happen. Never!”
Title: Day XIII
The Army of Rome meet the Aequi in the field. “Tell me everything, Aldous,” the general asks. “Point out the details, the weather, and which way the sun casts its light.” The centurion describes the battelfield. The Aequi Army is in the center – a massive group. In front of them on the left and right grows tall grass. “You know a farmer must clear out the pests before he begins to plow,” Cincinnatus says The officers look at each other with amusement. “What is the old farmer spouting on about,” they think. Cincinnatus spits out orders. The left and right part of the field is to be set on fire. Flaming arrows ignite the tall grass and out from it comes Aequi soldiers that were hiding in ambush.
“Now, let us plow the field.”
The Roman Army pushes up the center, with the cavalry on the flank. The battle is at full strength, with each side banging against the other. Cincinnatius is knocked off his horse. He winds up defending himself on the ground. We see how the battle looks from his end, a mass of unfocused bodies. He is separated from his centurion, Aldous Livius. The general is knocked to the ground and just as a soldier is about to run him through, the Aqui warrior drops his sword and grasps at his back. He falls from the screen revealing Fathus, the slave, behind him. The slave has snuck away from home, into the battle. He wears make-shift armor (looking more like a clown or a bargain basement soldier), and risked death to save his master. Suddenly, a slinger’s pellet comes out from the enemy ranks. Fathus leaps in front of his master taking the pellet directly on the forehead. He falls. He is still alive, but he can not walk. The old man kisses the slave on the cheek, and carries the slave on his left shoulder as he directs the battle.
The left flank of the Roman Army is overrunned, and Cincinnatus feels the battle is about to go against him. However, Caeso leads a group of cavalry in the thick of the action to protect his father from attack. He is unstoppable, and his sword rings as if the gods forged a bell into the blade. Cutting through the enemy he arrives in time to surround his father. It is then Aldous Livius fights his way through the battle to the general’s location. “Lord,” he shouts. “The enemy has us surrounded.”
“A blind man never enters a room without knowing the exit.” He nods to the centurion and Livius takes a bow and arrow and shoots it into the air. A distant shot shows it rising into the air, leaving a smokey trail of pitch and acrid smoke.
From out of the mountings march two fresh legions and surround the Aqui. The enemy is trapped with Cincinnatus in the center.
He turns to the unconscious Falthus still drapped on his shoulder. “Now, let us fight our way out.”
Act 3 (Resolution)
Title: Day XVI
The streets of Rome are filled with people. They stand on the walls and watch the horizon. Someone finally calls out: “THE LEGIO!”
Cincinnatus, with his son Caeso, lead the legio back into Rome. The crowd shouts and throws flower petals. They march to the center of Rome, and both father and son dismount in front of the senators that have turned out to greet him. Virgil Brutius gives a speech welcoming him back. The crowd shouts its pleasure and women run up and leave flowers at his feet. Casevo is estatic, and takes in the celebration with delight imagining the applause is for him.
That night there are parties going on all over Rome.
At the villa of Brutius the general is being celebrated and honored by a room full of senators.
At a road side wine house Caesevo is bragging to the patrons on how that he led his cavalry in to save his father’s life. He claims that if it was not for him the battle would have been lost.
At the house of Brutius there is whispering of the crimes of his son. Many of the senators soddened with drink begain to recount tales of Carso and his short reign of terror in Rome. Cincinnatus listens in wonder to the stories and becomes more and more saddened. Soon those that lived are brought forward. They have hoods over their faces, like condemned men. Virgil pulls the bag off each man revealing wounds, noses cut off, eyes that are swollen with black and blue flesh.
Some of the braver men call for Caeso to be arrested.
“We can not!” shouts Brutius. “He is our dictator’s son.”
“Tyrant!” a voice shouts from the back of the room.
The room is filled with shouts of “Tyrant” and “Dictator”.
Cincinnatus remains in his chair listening to the angry crowd. A split screen reveals what he is thinking. It is his white bull bellowing over his shoulder, complaining of the whip and the harness. It was as he predicted. Rome, the white bull, shouting its disdain to be in harness.
“Here it comes,” Brutius says under his breath. “All dictators reveal their spots. He shall throw us all in jail. He shall kill us all. Watch, watch…”
The next scene
Caseo is still bragging in his wine ship. Women are in his arms. Men are looking at him with adoration. Suddenly he feels a hand on his shoulder. We see in his face that he thinks its someone slapping him on the shoulder in congratulations.
It is a soldier.
“Captain Caseo. You are under arrest.”
We see a man in a dirty cell. The great Captain Caseo looks once more to be filthy. He is thin and bug eyed with fear. He stands and goes to the bars. “When my father hears of this, all of you will pay. PAY! I shall have your heads.” Caseo notices there is a man standing in the dark. “Are you my new jailor?”
“No,” The voice says. It is Cincinnatus. He steps forward and Caseo thinks he has been saved. His father says that he no longer has that power. “What do you mean?” Caeso asks. “I have resigned the dictatorship,” his father explains. Caeso asks if they forced him out. He can not believe that his father would give up such great power. He begins to berate his father for being “an old fool”, a “stupid farmer”, a “blind man” to the power that could have been his if he kept the title.
Before his father leaves the cell he says: “Not as blind as you.”
Cincinnatus is behind the plow. The white bull is particularly ornery. We see the old man’s bare back as he directs the plow.
Roman Jurors in the box with lawyers arguing a case. Caeso sits with his head bowed behind a table.
Rascilia rubbing Cincinnatius shoulder and whispering in his ear: “There was nothing you could do.”
A Roman crowd celebrating the victory over the Aedui. “TO CINNCINATUS!” They shout.
Aldous Livius looking at a medal he won while fighting the Aedui. He smiles and a woman asks him if he has seen her brush. “It’s under the bench,” he says and goes back to cleaning his medals.
Two little boys fighting with wooden swords while their proud fathers look on. Finally one says: “I am Cincinnatus.” The other gets angry: “NO, I am Cincinnatus!”
The defending attroney looks at the jurors and expounds: “You can find him guilty, but do you want to be the one that tells him his father that his only son will die?”
The jurors look at each other.
The white bull bellows into the camera. We see Cincinnatus behind the plow again. He is plowing a field but it is not his own. He looks at a man approaching. “Falthus?”
“Which field do you want plowed. I can do another acre.”
“It is kind of you to help me get started.”
“A freedman always needs a little help. The harvest in the spring for you is the same for me. We help each other.”
“On the battlefield and off.”
“On the battlefield and off,” the general repeats.
The old man looks to the right and left. “Where is the new slave?”
A voice off camera says: “Here sir.”
It is Caeso.
“How can I help you, master?”
Cincinnatus shakes his head. “Don’t ask me, ask your master.”
Fathus slaps Cincinnatus son on the shoulder. “Fetch some water for your father.”
Cincinnatus turns back to the plow. “Well, Jupiter, I am back. What shall we talk about today? The harvest. Well a little rain would help. Not just a sprinkle, but a good shower. I am expecting it this spring, oh great god. A little more than a piss, this time. Something to get the ground good and wet…”
He continues to plow. He is master of the bull, of the plow and Rome.