“Barbarians” or Roman Empire vs Germania – a whacky take on history by Netflix
The Roman Empire is to this day regarded as the greatest military rule to ever happen upon this earth. Stretching over 5 million square kilometers at the peak of its existence. It was a terrifying machine, and it would demolish anything that came into its path. However, once they marched in the dreary lands of Germania; the Roman Empire found itself at the tip of a spike so sharp that it would forever mark Germania’s name in every history book.
Netflix’s brand new Historical epic “Barbarians” focuses on this particular time in history. The time it chooses to showcase is an incredible moment in history, and while the series does manage to reach a decent standard. It pales in comparison to other series which follow the same design such as Vikings and The Last Kingdom. Which simply surpass Barbarians in the sheer scope and size of the world and its storytelling.
The claustrophobic design of the terrifying Teutoburg Forest does an incredible job of making up for the lack of set variation that this series has. This location and the brilliant set for it could have been a huge catalyst for some of the deepest, most engaging storytelling and battle sequences that would have aired on TV yet. However, the direction is severely lacking and the set is underutilized when it comes to actual storytelling, yet the battle you expect is just as visceral and breathtaking as you would have imagined.
The show has somewhat of a whacky take on its history though. I assume the folklore was the main focus of where they got their inspirations from, but their portrayal of these characters and them making love to the howling of the wolves was super-cheesy. While the series might be cheesy at times, the brutality here is anything but. The show bullseyes every trope in shows such as this one: The abundance of sex and violence, history baked in magical realism, dark atmosphere of the warzones, haunting character moments, self-righteous oppressors and well realized characters. It’s incredibly well executed in such ways. However, the series’ incredible set design serviced by ORIGO Film Group in Hungary has not been used to its maximum potential. Perhaps because of budgetary reasons, I assume. There is also a somewhat otherworldly supernatural/seer element in this series which wasn’t expanded on much, though it might be left out to give the second season which has already been renewed a bit more kick.
Arminius is the prince of the Cherusci tribe. Arminius and his brother Flavius are given to the Roman Empire as hostages to secure peace. Played by the amazing Austrian actor Laurence Rupp, Arminius’ character shines in the series as he gets some of the most interesting moments of self-reflection and realization. Arminius’ inner-conflict on whether to stay loyal to his adopted father Varus of Rome who helped in finding a purpose or to give in to his inner desire of fighting for Germania and fend off the Roman invaders is the main plot-line in the series. Thusnelda is the series most dominant personality. Played by the incredibly Jeanne Goursaud of Germany. She brings to life Thusnelda’s character with an ominous personality and human mindset. She breaks free of her father and vows to secure powerful alliances to aid her in defending her country. The rest of the characters in the series, from Wolfspeer played by young German talent David Schütter spearheads the series’ side role from great acting to just looking like someone from Norse mythology. The cast is a well-rounded selection of great talent, who all play their roles with respect and determination.
From the moment the series begins, all I was waiting for was the actual battle. The development up until that point wasn’t too deep because of the six-episode format. However, the Battle of Teutoburg Forest was one to behold. The design of the forest was so claustrophobic and realized, Mónika Esztán (Supervising Art Director) and Lea Walloschke (Art Director) at the art department did a spectacular job with it. Despite the story being lackluster, this final battle was all worth it. The series ends on a quite decent enough note, with a lot of the sub-plots and stories tied up quite neatly. However, the second season is definitely happening, in fact it has already been renewed and confirmed.
Hungary has become a widely acknowledged location for film productions.
“Hungary’s 30 percent tax rebate for film productions, the pool of local film industry talent and the country’s natural and architectural spaces offer filmmakers outstanding opportunities.” – told Csaba Káel Hungarian film comissioner earlier to Variety.
“In ‘Barbarians’ a long list of Hungarian professionals prove that any kind of production can be succesfully produced with us. The SFX, the camera and electrical, the costume and wardrobe, and also the music department were provided by a almost completely Hungarian crew. The battle scenes needed the best stunts available – you can see more than 40 Hungarian names on the list along with the well-experienced Balázs Farkas as stunt coordinator.” – told us Ádám Ruzsinszki, the Hungarian co-producer of the series. “Good co-operation with the Pilisi Park Forest was especially important during the on-site filming, as without them we would not have been able to solve the filming, taking into account the weather conditions. We can also thank a lot to László Juhász, the horse master and his team, who did an excellent job even in the most difficult terrain” – he added.
All in all, it’s not the most historically accurate nor the most well written Historical Epic series out there. However, Barbarians at its best is an exciting, engaging trek through the Germanic marshlands of brutality, brooding atmosphere and dark political agendas. Everything in the series is viscerally realized and brought onto the screen, hopefully the second season improves on the clichéd storytelling and we could have something incredibly entertaining to watch for the next few years.
- Andreas Bareiß – Executive Producer
- Marlow De Mardt – Line Producer
- Sabine de Mardt – Executive Producer
- Rainer Marquass – Executive Producer
- William Pruss- Supervising Producer: Gaumont France
- Adam Ruzsinszki – Co-Producer
- Sidonie Dumas – Executive Producer Christophe Riandee – Executive Producer
- Production companies: Gaumont, Cologne, Germany and Netflix, Los Angeles, USA
- Production service: Origo Film Group, Hungary
- Post-production facilities: ARRI Sound
- Camera equipment, grip and lighting equipment: ARRI Rental
Summary All in all, it’s not the most historically accurate nor the most well written Historical Epic series out there. However, Barbarians at its best is an exciting, engaging trek through the Germanic marshlands of brutality, brooding atmosphere and dark political agendas. Everything in the series is viscerally realized and brought onto the screen, hopefully the second season improves on the clichéd storytelling and we could have something incredibly entertaining to watch for the next few years.