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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: April 2020

Two - Modelling


In the film Gladiator, directed by Ridley Scott, the lead character, Maximus (played by Russell Crowe), carries with him two small clay figurines to remind him of his wife and young son (Figure 2.1). As a senior professional soldier, he is separated from his family for months on end. In an early scene, he prays besides these two figurines, beseeching his mother and father to protect them. He kisses the figurine of his wife tenderly. Political events soon take over. A favourite general of the emperor Marcus Aurelius, his position becomes suddenly precarious when the emperor dies at the hands of his son Commodus, who resents his father’s love for the general. Commodus issues orders for Maximus’s wife and son to be killed – and so, tragically, Maximus never sees his family again, and the clay figurines are all he has left by which to remember them. Events conspire to separate him from these too. The figurines go through quite a cycle, from revelation to concealment. At the end, soon after Maximus’s death, his friend Juba returns to the Colosseum to bury the figurines where Maximus had died. Their movements from place to place, the gestures that enact their presence (and absence), their close connection with the body, with light, with dirt, and their intimate associations with cult and death – as substitutes, these miniature figural forms are extremely powerful.