Posted by: David Stewart | September 17, 2010

Love triumphs in the time of the Picts

It’s often said that there are really no good guys or bad guys in war. This is never so apparent as in Centurion, the new British movie that opened last weekend in the US.

Lacking big stars or a big name studio backing it, Centurion is playing only in an art house in Portland (the estimable Living Room Theater). I’m grateful for Laura giving me a free pass for the early screening.

It picks up a thread from ancient Rome’s first century invasion of the British islands, which has ground to a halt in its twentieth year. The northerners have decided to put up a fight, particularly the Picts.

Little is known today of the blue-painted Pict warriors. In fact, they likely didn’t even call themselves Picts, which is a Latin name derived from their elaborate artistic stonework. Of their spoken language, little remains today but place names. But they were indeed famous for being unrelentingly fierce warriors.

Who would we tend to favor in such a war? The Romans, inventors of Western civilization? They were caught up in a grinding campaign with seemingly no end in sight in a country far from their warm Italian homes and just wanted a successful end to it. Or should we sympathize with the Picts, who are being invaded after all and were brutally oppressed by their enemies.

In fact, neither side in this battle wins our sympathy. They are both barbaric and do ugly things.

If there are any good guys in this war, it is those who are motivated ultimately by love. Love of a father for his son. Love of soldiers for their general. Love for wounded and desperate strangers. And perhaps even love of a man for a woman.

Love of country or love for oneself loses out in the end.

And so it causes me to wonder – what would I do for the sake of love? What ends will I go to, what sacrifices made? Am I loving to the extent I say I should be?

The film follows the path of one particular Roman officer, a Centurion, who survives a guerilla assault by the Picts early on.

If you are interested in this speculation of how this part of history might have played out, I recommend it. I’m a bit of a fan for ancient history, so I liked this. But there is plenty of blood spilled (and spurted and gushed) in the process.

The movie earns its R rating with extreme, bloody battle scenes. The squeamish should probably give it a pass.

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