Vercingétorix (2001) or Druids
Director: Jacques Dorfmann.
Starring: Christopher Lambert (Vercingétorix), Klaus Maria Brandauer (Julius Ceasar), Max von Sydow (Guttuart), Inés Sastre (Epona), Denis Charvet (Cassivelaun), Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu (Dumnorix), Maria Kavardjikova (Rhia), Yannis Baraban (Litavic), Vincent Moscato (Moscatos), Jean-Pierre Rives (Teuton Chief).
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
60 B.C. Archdruid Gutart talks about the coming of a king to the Gauls. He says that a hero will appear and he must go to seek him out.
Gerkovia Fortress. The young Vercingétorix and his girlfriend Epona talk about one day his becoming a king and her his queen. Village leaders are meeting to discuss the various tribes of the Gauls coming together to better fight their enemies: the Germanic Teutons to the north and the Romans to the south. There is, however, a great deal of suspicion between the different leaders. The leader Gobannitio is accused of wanting to make himself king. Quarrels develop and Vercingétorix's father, Celtill, is shot in the back with an arrow and then imprisoned in a wooden cage. Gobannitio makes sure that Celtill is executed by setting fire to the prisoner's cage. Vercingétorix swears that one day he will kill Gobannitio.
The Romans are on the move northward. Another meeting is called between the chiefs, this time at Bibracte. Caesar offers the leaders the chance to go with him to Britain where they will be able to keep one-half of what they seize. The Roman commander gives Vercingétorix a horse. Vercingétorix rides to Gerkovia where he kills Gobannitio to avenge his father's death.
Vercingétorix asks the people of Gerkovia to go with him and the Romans to Britain for spoils. The people then choose Vercingétorix to ride at the head of the Arverne forces to Britain.
Roman Camp Boulogne. Vercingétorix meets with Caesar, who has at his side Epona, Vercingétorix childhood girlfriend. Caesar seems anxious for the two to get together. The commander says there are too many Gallic tribes and that he thinks Vercingétorix could be a king, chosen by Rome. Vercingétorix remarks that he could be king, chosen by destiny. After the meeting the two young people reunite.
Negotiating with the Gauls, Caesar says that he will take Epona and the young children of the chieftains as hostages just in case anyone tries to double-cross the Romans. While trying to work something out with the Romans, Gallic chieftain Dumnorix and his men hit the Romans and then quickly left. Caesar sends Vercingétorix and some men after Dumnorix. He stresses that he wants Dumnorix brought back to him alive. As Vercingétorix and Dumnorix start to talk, a Gaul who wants division between the tribes kills Dumnorix.
Vercingétorix has a change of heart and decides to fight Caesar instead of getting rich with him. (But Caesar never really wanted the Gauls to accompany him to Britain. He was just keeping the Gauls distracted, while he pursued his own goals in Gallic territory.)
Vercingétorix heads to Gergovia, but he is told to go away. The leaders there tell Vercingétorix that he is banned from the fortress because Caesar has put a price on his head. The Romans proceed to massacre all the Druids (but Archdruid Gutart escapes death). Vercingétorix and his men bust into the fortress at Gergovia and take over the place. The people make Vercingétorix king of the Arvennes tribe. The goal now is to drive the Romans out of Gaul.
Vercingétorix has all the reserve crops destroyed to prevent the Romans from getting food. He then orders the evacuation of the city of Avaricum. But there is such a protest raised over the order that Vercingétorix reluctantly agrees not to force the evacuation. But this gives Caesar an opportunity. He tells his officers that he wants a bloodbath. The orders are carried out with the killing of elders, women and children. When Vercingétorix is criticized for letting this happen under his watch, he replies that he made a mistake -- he listened to the leaders of Avaricum and did not force the evacuation of the settlement.
The Romans attempt to take Gergovia Fortress. The fortress is suspiciously quiet as the Roman formations mass outside of it. The women of the fortress taunt and tease the Romans by flashing their breasts at the Roman soldiers. This breaks the soldiers' concentration. While they are preoccupied with the women, the Gallic forces mass behind the Romans to prepare for an attack on the foreigners. Chieftain Litavic, who was an ally of the Romans, decides to join Vercingétorix and his forces. Together they are able to defeat the Romans.
Caesar meets with the Teutons and buys their support. Soon the Gauls find out that the Teutons are in the area and they are worry about the combination of the Romans and the Teutons. Meanwhile, Caesar builds a fortification near Gergovia Fortress. His plan is to starve the Gauls into surrender. Gallic reinforcements arrive. Vercingétorix tells the chieftains outside the fortress not to attack the Romans, but they do so anyway. With the help of the Teutons, the Romans inflict heavy losses on the Gauls. Some of Vercingétorix's forces joined in support of the attacking Gauls and they lost a lot of men also.
Realizing that the situation is hopeless, Vercingétorix rides his horse to the Roman fort to turn himself over to Caesar. Caesar accepts the surrender of the Gallic king.
46 B.C. Vercingétorix, imprisoned in Tuianum, is executed by order of Caesar.
Vercingétorix did not win the Gallic War, but he for the first time united all the Gallic people.
This is an o.k. film. If you like the emphasis on action, then you will give it a higher rating. The Gallic War is treated in other movies dealing with Julius Caesar as he was the commander of the campaign against the Gauls. With a massive wig, Christopher Lambert as Vercingétorix looked funny. He is a handsome guy, but here the wig made his face look way too long and humorous. The beautiful Ines Sastre as Epona does not get much of a part in the movie. I thought she could have been given more interesting lines at least. But what's the worse thing is that my DVD copy used the title of Druids, but the Druids have very little to do with this film. From the title I thought it would be about the Irish, but was I wrong. The movie deals with the fight of the Gallic people to rid their lands of the Roman invaders.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
See Julius Caesar (1953)
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