: Charity Bishop
You would have a hard time
distinguishing this Hallmark adaptation from a Hollywood
production. It has a gorgeous soundtrack, stellar
acting, epic battle scenes... and enough violence and
sex to give any modern marvel a run for its money at the
Egypt lies torn in its
loyalty between the two women who struggle in power for
the throne. In the midst of this turmoil, the taxes have
not been paid to Rome and Julius Caesar has marched upon
the city, to take it captive until new alliances can be
formed. The ruler seated upon the throne is a twelve
year old boy under the right hand of his older sister Arsinoe; it is she who has kept Cleopatra from taking
the empire, despite their father's desire that it be his
eldest to succeed him.
Caesar cares little who rules the throne... as long as
Egypt remains loyal to Rome and pays its annual taxes.
Cleopatra has learned of his conquest to take her
father's city and devises a scheme to win him to her
side. Having herself smuggled into the city, she is
deposited literally at the feet of the Roman invaders
and asks Caesar (Timothy Dalton) to help restore her to her throne. When
all else fails, her charms take her into his bedroom,
and after one night together he removes Arsinoe from the
throne, and gives it to Cleopatra under the condition
that she rules with her brother at her side. This safety
is short-lived, for her brother has been turned against
her... and Arsinoe rouses her armies to attack the
palace and drive back the Romans. Caesar is triumphant
in his victory, and Cleopatra's reign restored... but
she goes against him and has her sister killed in the
prison, despite his orders that she remain alive as a
bartering tool. She only eludes his fury by flirting
with danger, and her leadership becomes etched in stone.
Egypt has endured much in the way of civil war and
famine. The people are hungry. The taxes are high. The
treasuries in danger of depletion. And in Rome, rumor is
stirring of Caesar's romantic affair with an Egyptian
queen whist he neglects his Roman wife and
responsibilities at home. Only his nephew, Octavian, and
his loyal Mark Anthony (Billy Zane) are able to keep Marcus Brutus
and his howling pack of wolves at bay. Caesar must
return to Rome to defend his position there, just as
Cleopatra has learned that she will bear his child. This
is her link between the Roman Empire and Egypt... a
child, a bartering tool, a sense of security. But Rome
is not compassionate to illegitimate children, and
divorce is not something spoken of lightly... nor would
a romantic alliance be favored. Cleopatra may have won
her throne, but she may be forced to fight to keep it.
Even then, she cannot protect Caesar in his fight in her
favor. And her seductive charms may not work on all the
men of the world...
The story demands a certain amount of accuracy,
and in most areas Hallmark has gone all out to
make ancient Egypt as impressive and majestic as
the tombs would have us believe. Rich fabrics,
cold stone walls, and draped tapestries provide
a rich backdrop.
If ancient Egypt and its history fascinates you,
is worth a rental.
Cleopatra consults a
prostitute for tips on "lovemaking." She seduces
Caesar. The scene isn't particularly graphic but does
involve dialogue and kissing before the camera pans
away. They're seen numerous times in an
intimate context, often reclining next to one
of the garments are sheer; you
can see Cleopatra's breasts through the fabric. Mark Anthony and Cleopatra quarrel after he tries
flirting with her; he angrily begins to storm from the
room but instead the two have violent, explicit sex.
People are stabbed, shot with
arrows, skewered with poles, impaled by lances, and
beheaded. Cleopatra's brother falls from his chariot
and strikes his head upon a stone, killing him. She
has her sister murdered in the dungeons (seen only
by reflection upon the wall). At least twice
decapitated heads are shown in gruesome glimpses.
Caesar's death scene is particularly cruel and
jarring... in which he's stabbed a dozen times by
those he counted among his friends. Men fall upon
their swords to kill themselves, and blood is spilt
in the city streets.