Druids (a.k.a., Vercingetorix)
directed by Jacques Dorfmann
(Columbia TriStar, 2001)

It's a story of great scope, as a desperate people rally behind a charismatic leader in a last-ditch effort to stave off the relentless legions of Rome.

Druids, originally released in Europe as Vercingetorix, tells the story of the Celts of Gaul who battled to save their land from Julius Caesar's sweep across lower Europe. Christopher Lambert plays the heroic Vercingetorix, who matches wits against Klaus Maria Brandauer as Caesar.

In the wake of epic films such as Braveheart, Rob Roy and Gladiator, this movie seems like an obvious winner. Unfortunately, the product pales in comparison to the other three with its muddy script, awkward pacing and uninteresting battle scenes. Lambert, who has certainly handled a few swords in his day, cannot carry a film where the fight choreography is, for the most part, unexciting and unconvincing.

That said, the film at least looks good. Costumes, sets and props carry an air of authenticity, and the history -- based, at least, on my own knowledge of that period -- is fairly accurate. But I'm not sure someone unfamiliar with the history will come away from this film feeling better educated -- the script confusingly governs events and the passage of time. Pacing is at times mind-numbingly slow, and vocal dubbing (the film was originally shot in French) is poor.

The notion that the Roman legions could be so easily distracted by topless Gaulish women is just silly. Vercingtorix's brutal tactic of destroying his people's homes and crops to deny supplies to the Romans was underplayed to the point that no one really seemed to be suffering the effects. The druids appear now and again, but don't have enough to do to deserve the title.

This movie was rife with potential, but filmmakers failed to achieve even a fraction.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 16 March 2002

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