Cleopatra Movie Historical Accuracy Essay
The historical epic film, “Cleopatra” depicts the queen and her relationships with two great Roman rulers, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. Produced in 1963, this movie is a one of a kind as it portrays the Roman Republic transition. Although the motion picture is mostly very true to the historic facts, there are a few examples where the producers deviated from accuracy. The movie is not entirely correct with some of the costume and set choices, representation of the character Octavian, and Mark Antony’s family affairs.
More importantly, Octavian’s character is adapted for the movie and does not precisely represent his true character. In general, “Cleopatra” gives the viewer a factual look at the events of Cleopatra and her relationships in respect to Rome with a few discrepancies. Although the movie stays true to the facts of the storyline, there are multiple wardrobe and set choices that move away from the time period. For example, the interiors in Cleopatra’s palace are not from the age she lived in.
In fact, the “furniture was copied from the tomb of queen Hetepheres, who lived 2500 years before Cleopatra” (Palper, 67).
Also the statues shown in her room are “replicas from the ones discovered in King Tutankhamen, who lived 1300 years before Cleopatra” (Palper, 67). These are small details that were not historically accurate because they did not alter the plot of the movie, but rather enhanced the Egyptian aesthetic, and extravagant portrayal of Cleopatra. Personally, I think the producers made the right decision to take exact copies of real Egyptian artifacts, instead of creating an artificial fake. The “Egyptian” setting contributed to the movie and left the viewer impressed with the extravagancy and complexity of the set.
Other small wardrobe choices that are not accurate relate to the dress of the Roman soldiers. As shown in the movie, the Roman officers wore ostrich plumes on their helmets. Historically, officers did not have this type of head dressing because it was too expensive (Gill). The wardrobe department for the movie added it to enhance the visual look of the scenes with the officers. In addition to miner aspects in the movie such as set and costume choice, the writers also represented Octavian in a historically inaccurate way.
In the hit movie “Cleopatra”, Octavian’s character is adapted for the movie and does not precisely describe his true quality. In reality, Octavian was a brave ruler who loved to fight. “The movie portrays him in a very negative light, also showing him to be a physical coward who avoided wine, woman, and gambling” (Cane, 13). For example, Octavian is shown as weak when he does not participate in the battle of Philippi because he is sick. Although it is true that Octavian was prone to sickness, he was not a coward, and often showed significant bravery in battle.
For instance, Octavian was certainly brave and determined to gain control over the Roman Empire and defeat Antony. In an epic sea battle off the coast of Southwest Greece” (Gill)”, Octavian was undoubtedly active in fighting (successfully) for his position and power. Also, Octavian is misrepresented when portrayed as stingy, never taking part in his own wars, never drinking, or concerning himself with women. In reality, for example “Octavian actually loved gambling with dice and indulged in extramarital affairs” (Cane 14).
The writers and producers of the movie probably altered Octavian’s character to make a contrast and set apart his character from the other main men in the plot. The main focuses for the male roles are set on Caesar and Antony, because making Octavian out to be the strong leader he was would take the focus off of the main characters. Once again, historically, the facts are not entirely accurate. However, for the purpose of the movie, the screenwriters adapted the perception of Octavian to better suit the movie’s focus.
Another example where the writers of “Cleopatra” strayed from historical characters and incidents was in relation to Mark Antony. The movie reveals the relationship between Antony and Cleopatra. Antony was in love with Cleopatra, however was married to Octavia with two children. This is all true, although the movie completely omits the fact that Antony later had three children with Cleopatra. This is a historical fact that was never mentioned in the movie. The movie writers of “Cleopatra” most likely made the choice to leave this detail out of the plot for the sake of movie length.
Despite this, I believe this fact is an important element of the story that reveals something about the two characters and their relationship. An entire half of the film is devoted to Cleopatra and Antony, the producers could have at least briefly represented the existence of the couple’s offspring. Overall, this movie is in general very accurate, but it certainly does cut out some significant historic details, especially pertaining to Antony and Cleopatra’s children. All in all, the 1963 movie “Cleopatra” is an epic representation of Cleopatra’s relationships with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.
The movie stays true to almost all of the vital plot details, with only minor inconsistencies. First, there is a historical time-period inaccuracy with the set and artifacts in Cleopatra’s palace and the dress of her officers. Also, there is character misrepresentation with Octavian. Lastly, some facts and characters are left out of the movie such as Antony and Cleopatra’s children. In summary, the movie writers portrayed the historical facts as best they could while still creating a best-hit motion picture interesting for the viewers.